Fairfax County Police 2nd Lt. Charles Riddle, 44, grew up in Vienna and McLean, graduating from Marshall High School in 1987.
“I remember Tysons Corner when it was a one-level mall, and when the Galleria was a vacant lot nicknamed ‘the pits’,” he said. “I wish I had had enough money back then to invest in land, but, of course, I didn’t.”
The Fairfax County Police Department is now making an investment of its own in Tysons’ future, with Riddle at the helm.
The department chose Riddle out of a large pool of candidates to head the new Tysons Urban Team police unit, the first of its kind in the county.
The unit, which moved into its Tysons Corner Center office on Nov. 20, is made up of nine multi-skilled officers culled from the Franconia, Mason and McLean district stations.
“I myself come from an IT and records management background and I also ran the Mason District bike patrol team,” Riddle said. “Pete Massaro, my sergeant, comes from a tactical background and has logged time with the SWAT team. Others officers have backgrounds in other areas such as the Intel unit, the gang task force and retail anti-theft squads. These are all skills we will utilize to make this new urban unit work.”
Police say Tysons Corner — with its densely compact malls, office buildings, hotels and stores — presents unusual law enforcement challenges. With four new Tysons Corner Metro stations slated to open early next year, police are planning how to cope with expected increases in crime.
According to Capt. Daniel Janickey, commander of the McLean District Station, the Tysons Corner area has about 19,000 residents, but boasts a daytime population of 250,000 people inhabiting 33 million square feet of office space and nearly 4,000 hotel rooms.
Even without Metro, the two Tysons Corner malls have more than 23 million annual visitors.
In a presentation before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in February, Janickey asked for 33 new positions for Tysons. He said that based on anecdotal research conducted with mall property managers, hotel, restaurant and transportation leaders, and the Metro Transit police, he expects a significant increase in assaults, robberies, thefts, destruction of property and stolen vehicles once Metro opens.
Janickey told supervisors that significant amounts of crime at Tysons is already committed by offenders living outside Northern Virginia, including organized crime rings from New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Some Washington, D.C., residents, after being arrested, have admitted to coming to the area by train to commit crimes.
“When you have an increase in population, you will also have an increase in crime,” said Fairfax County Chief of Police Ed Roessler, who accompanied Janickey at the presentation.
The board approved about a third of the positions requested.
“We asked for 33 and the board approved nine,” said Riddle. “That is one of the reasons we need to train in urban law enforcement methods. We need to be as efficient as possible for the area we will be policing, which is more than just the mall area. We will be responsible for the entire ‘golden triangle’ between Route 123, I-495, and both sides of Route 7. As the county’s first urban unit, our mission will change every day because the Tysons area itself is changing and urbanizing every day.”
Riddle said the nine members of the new urban unit will be split into retail crime, community policing, bicycle and rail teams. “Essentially, we will go from having one-officer vehicle patrols to having two-officer mobile patrols, more officers on bicycles, Segways and increased foot patrols,” he said.
Riddle said the need for the new methods is obvious.
“Let’s say for example that there is an incident on the 30th floor of a building,” he said. “With the two-officer mobile patrols, officers will have their backup right there with them instead of waiting for their backup to navigate Tysons traffic trying to get there.”
One of his main goals is to familiarize his unit with the hundreds of building outlays, management companies and private security firms within the unit’s territory.
“There are hundreds of security cameras at Tysons Corner Center alone,” he said. “We plan to know where every camera, every corridor, every staircase and every service entrance is in every building within our area. We also want to network and get to know security and management personnel. If there is a shooter on the 12th floor of the MicroStrategy building, for example, we are going to need to know the best way to proceed.”
Eventually, Riddle said, his unit will devise training exercises for other police divisions, eventually ushering in a new era of urban policing throughout the county.
“Chief Roessler eventually wants urban units in Reston Town Center, Mount Vernon, Springfield and other areas of the county that are revitalizing and urbanizing,” Riddle said. “We are the prototype and what we learn we will pass on to future teams.”
Pfc. Kirk McNickle, a member of the new urban team, said his unit likely will affect the entire department in ways no one has thought of yet.
“This type of policing will likely establish new policies,” he said. “For example, right now, if officers need to get into a high-rise office building in the middle of the night, we call Fire & Rescue to let us in. They are the guys who have access. But as Tysons and the county itself become more urbanized, we will probably no longer be able to maintain that as a policy. We will probably need our own sets of master keys like the ones Fire & Rescue have.”
McNickle said he is honored to be part of the new unit and is looking forward to the new experience.
“In a department this large and this old, it is very unusual to be the first of anything,” he said. “I find that to be a great honor and a point of pride. Here’s to the future.”