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UPDATED March 1: Two arrests were reported by the Arlington Police Department recently.

Patricia Lee Preston, a 61-year-old Winchester resident, was arrested at about 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, on suspicion of operating under the influence after driving her car into a utility pole on Park Avenue near Glenburn Road.

Two witnesses told police that they had seen the car approaching at no more than 5 mph before mounting the curb and crashing into the pole. The witnesses also stated that just before impact, the driver appeared to be slumped over the wheel as if unconscious.

The report noted that before police officers' arrival, the vehicle's engine was running until other bystanders assisted in turning it off. While reportedly appearing to be uninjured, Preston was described as disoriented, with slurred speech, glassy eyes and “the odor of alcohol emanating from her person.” Further sobriety testing was judged to be unneeded.

After hearing her rights and nodding, the suspect was arrested and handcuffed to a gurney for transportation to the station, the report said, and her car was towed.

One of the officers noticed visible damage on the front-right side of the suspect's vehicle that coincided with a two-vehicle crash that had happened only minutes before on Mass. Ave. Preston received citations for operating under the influence (first offense), operating recklessly and negligently, and marked-lane violation. The APD also said that it plans to refer her for a possible charge of leaving the scene of the earlier accident.

Separate case

In a separate incident, late Sunday, Feb. 25, James Robillard, 23, of Arlington, was arrested on suspicion of operating under the influence. Robillard was apprehended after a civilian driver noticed the erratic driving, called police and continued to follow the suspect while updating his position to a police dispatcher.

The pursuit, starting around the Winchester Country Club, proceeded southbound on Mystic Street as the civilian continued to report the suspect car's moves, including repeatedly swerving across the median strip, multiple sidewalk hits, and striking and completely uprooting a stop sign (after taking an abrupt right onto Sorenson Court) as well as driving with a flat tire. At about 11:30 p.m., Robillard came to a stop on Stowecroft Road and got out of the car. When the civilian pulled up his car nearby, Robillard reportedly “flipped him the bird.”

When police arrived and confronted Robillard, they reportedly found him visibly unsteady, at risk of falling over, smelling of alcohol and uncooperative. When asked for identification, he said he didn't have any and didn't need to show any.

Asked about the flat tire, he said he didn't know about it because he hadn't been driving. Asked how the car got to its location, he said that it was where it had been parked, though Robillard's home address is more than a mile away. Officers asked “the civilian” whether he could positively ID Robillard as the driver of the involved motor vehicle, but the response on the report was blacked out. Inspecting Robillard's car turned up one empty bottle of Miller Lite in the back seat. Robillard was arrested, cuffed and taken to the station for booking. Aside from the OUI citation, he also faces numerous charges for road violations as well as for destruction of town property (the stop sign).

'Check-washing'

'In other news, YourArlington received a "check-washing” update. APD spokesman Capt. Richard Flynn said that thefts from U.S. Postal blue boxes and subsequent alteration of checks, often in the thousands of dollars, continues to be a growing problem, not only in Arlington, but also throughout the region. The APD has received three more reports (not covered below) of residents finding large withdrawals from their bank accounts via stolen and altered checks.

The U.S. Postal Investigation Service continues to investigate blue box security; according to NBC news, new, high-tech boxes are in the offing. Until the boxes themselves can be replaced or properly secured, people are being urged to take precautions including using indelible ink to write checks. The problem ramped up in Arlington most recently starting in December and has been occurring noticeably locally for more than a year.

 The following is based on selected Arlington Police Department logs from Feb. 20 through Feb. 26, 2024.

Tuesday, Feb. 20

3:05 p.m. – Traffic Stop, Multiple Violations. An Arlington motorist caught holding a cell phone to his ear while driving was pulled over by an APD traffic control officer on Pleasant Street near Swan Street. The officer's ID check revealed both an expired registration and an expired inspection rejection, earning the overly connected driver a pair of citations. Flynn noted that while nonhandsfree use of a cell phone is not strictly illegal, it's obviously a poor safety practice as well as a brash invitation to be pulled over by police.

5:04 p.m. – I.D. Fraud. A Newport Street resident filed a citizen report saying that notice of a precipitous plunge in his credit rating led him to take a closer look at his accounts, where he found a $2,000 past-due charge for a Home Depot purchase he had never made. Police are investigating. Flynn said there's a chance of identifying the perpetrator through Home Depot records of the exact date and time of the purchase when correlated with security video footage.

Wednesday, Feb. 21

8:05 p.m. – Motor Vehicle Larceny. A Ridge Street resident reported finding that his 2001 Subaru Forester had gone AWOL from the driveway when he was ready to leave for the day. Later in the day, after a motor vehicle theft report had been filed with APD, the car was recovered locally with no apparent damage nor, indeed, any signs of having been used. Police determined that the owner likely had left the vehicle not only unlocked but with keys in the ignition. As the family offered no possible suspects, police concluded it may have been the work of a random stranger or a thrill-seeking youth.

8:30 p.m. – Counterfeit Notes. The manager of a pizza place in the 600 block of Mass. Ave. called APD to report that two teenage males had apparently tried to pay for their meal with a counterfeit note. A female counterperson told arriving officers that she had known immediately from its feel that the bill was fake. She said she had then summoned the manager, who had somehow managed to get the youths to pose for a photo before leaving. She also mentioned that the two had been at the establishment twice earlier that day. Police have shown the picture to AHS staff, but no one there has been able to identify them as AHS students. The U.S. Secret Service now has possession of the note and presumably is investigating.

Friday, Feb. 23

3:17 p.m. – Accident in Crosswalk. A Ford van going north on Pleasant Street struck an eastbound electric scooter making improper use of a crosswalk at the Mass. Ave. intersection. According to the police report based on eyewitnesses' accounts, the scooter rider, a 38-year-old Medford male, seemed to have ignored a “Do Not Walk” sign while attempting to ride across Pleasant Street using the crosswalk. The van driver, a 61- year-old Gloucester resident who had the right of way, then struck the scooter a glancing blow that resulted in no injuries or damage to the vehicles. Officers on the scene gave the scooterer a lecture but no citation. Flynn explained that because the offender was riding his scooter in the crosswalk, he was technically not a pedestrian and would have been liable for any damage or injury while crossing. To have a pedestrian's liability protection, he should have dismounted and walked the scooter in the crosswalk, but in that case he should have honored the “Do Not Walk” sign. He tried to have it both ways, Flynn said.

Monday, Feb. 26

3:42 p.m. – I. D. Theft. A Lowell Street resident reported to police that she had searched online for what she thought was an Apple customer support number. When the woman called the number, however, someone posing as an Apple employee asked her to send a photocopy of her Massachusetts driver's license, which she obligingly did. Suddenly feeling anxious, however, she abruptly hung up and started monitoring her accounts. Within a day or two, she discovered that an account with a large line of credit had been opened in her name and that a $54K charge had been made against it to buy crypto shares. Luckily, she reported, she was able to raise a convincing alarm with the bank associated with the new account in time for them to block the funds transfer. Flynn commented that this story shows how vulnerable people are to the theft of a few items of personal data. A Massachusetts driver's license gives away a person's name and date of birth. But if drivers take the trouble to have the DMV use a different control number instead of their Social Security numbers, they can greatly lessen the risk of identity theft via the license, he said.


Feb. 22, 2024: Police blotter Feb. 13-19: APD makes arrest; plus accidents, some with left-turn cautions


This column by YourArlington volunteer writer Chris Wilbur was published Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, based on information from Arlington Police Department daily logs, explanations from APD spokesman Capt. Richard Flynn and YourArlington's files. It was updated March 1, 2024, to add links to previous articles about "check washing."