InsideNOVA: Editorial: Stewart takes a swipe at eastern Prince William County

From InsideNOVA

In recently arguing his case for more police officers (and perhaps higher taxes) in next year’s fiscal county budget, Prince William Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart also managed to perpetuate an unfortunate stereotype.

“It’s not just in Woodbridge or Dale City, it’s not just in places where people would think these things would occur,” Stewart said of what he perceives as a spike in crime. “They are happening in the western end of the county.”

Really, Mr. Stewart? We expect rape, robbery and murder on the east end but not the west end?
He might as well have called it “Hoodbridge,” that embarrassing nickname that started who knows where, but it seems to have stuck.

Stewart called a press conference earlier this month to make his case that crime is on the rise, and mentioned two recent high-profile incidents – the execution-style shooting death of 21-year-old Glenda Coca-Romero at Platanillos Grocery in Woodbridge and a gang fight at Potomac Mills mall.

We’re going to agree with Stewart on the slaying at Platanillos. It’s a crime brazen and cold-blooded, with no known motive. It should shock and frighten us.

The fight at Potomac Mills, which originally went out on social media as shots fired at the mall, was quickly found to be nothing more than a brawl among teens at the food court. No shots were fired, no weapons at all were seen on surveillance video, no one was seriously injured and three youths were quickly arrested.

At his news conference, Stewart neglected to mention a more serious and disturbing gang-related attack at Manassas Mall in February, in which a teenager was cornered and slashed repeatedly with pocketknives. While the mall sits right on the border with Manassas, it’s in Prince William, and county police quickly made several arrests in the case, just as they did in the Potomac Mills fight.

Police say they don’t crunch the numbers to analyze crime between east and west, but calls for service are higher in eastern Prince William, due to the higher population and housing density.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, almost 214,000 of Prince William County’s approximately 402,000 residents live in Woodbridge, Lake Ridge, Woodbridge, Triangle, Dumfries and Quantico.

While all of us should be concerned about violence in Prince William County, we can’t help but think Stewart called the press conference just to do a little political grandstanding, and perhaps scare us into accepting higher property taxes.

Stewart didn’t invite county police Chief Steve Hudson to his press conference. In fact, police say they didn’t even know he was having a press conference until one of our reporters called to ask about it.

Stewart can try to stir fear if he wants, but in reality crime here is at a 15-year low, police statistics show. Thanks to social media, we’re just more aware of it.