Wednesday, I had a great opportunity to go for a “ride along” with a police officer in the Woodbridge area. Expecting to see horrific neighborhoods, having been described by Greg and other posters, I WAS shocked. Shocked, because, for the most part, the only lawns I did not see maintained were the ones with the foreclosure signs on them. Sure, the homes were older, several had garages that were turned into separate entrances, but they are all in good shape for the most part. We visited shopping centers, once vibrant, now deserted.
The police officer pointed out areas with high gang activity, and pointed to some taggings. Still, having grown up in Fairfax, having lived from North Arlington to Centreville, having seen first hand the poorer apartments and houses in the Baileys Crossroads area, even these parts of Woodbridge, overall, looked well maintained. I am not suggesting that the houses all perfect, there were a few that stood out, but this was not a “third world country”, not by any stretch of the imagination. I asked the police officer “is this as bad as you could show me ?”, and he replied that it was.
Stopping briefly, we had some conversations with a few day laborers. They were cordial and friendly, sharing their thoughts, describing their desire to work during these tough times. Some had families here, some had families in their country of origin. Although, a few admitted to be undocumented, several said they had visa’s to be here legally.
Driving home, I recalled the conversations I had with this very kind, considerate, and thoughtful(as in full of thought), police officer. He can see the totality of immigration impact in Prince William County, we were able to debate our ideas and I certainly came away with a new appreciation of his job and the struggles of these neighborhoods, struggling to absorb such a large influx of new and different faces.
To me, the glaring elephant in the room, has been the lack of county leadership, dealing pro-actively with the changing face of Prince William County to a more urban environment. Instead, we have community in fear of the police, and that fear is counter productive to the safety of everyone in Prince William County, including me, you, and the immigrants.