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Vienna police are closing in on a suspect who they think committed three recent lewd incidents near the Washington & Old Dominion Regional Trail, but the department so far has no leads regarding thefts of two decoratively painted benches from in front of local businesses.

Town police recently responded to three reported cases of a man either masturbating or exposing himself along the W&OD trail. The incidents occurred Aug. 12 at 7:50 a.m. on the bike trail between Park Street and Branch Road, S.E.; Aug. 13 at 3:25 p.m. around the bike trail near Park Street and Dominion Road, S.E.; and Aug. 15 between 7:30 and 8 a.m. near the W&OD Trail near Park Terrace Court, S.E.

Vienna police think the same person is the culprit.

“We spent a lot of time on it, pretty much around the clock,” Deputy Chief Daniel Janickey told the Council. “We spent pretty much all weekend investigating it, to include surveillance, interviewing a whole bunch of people and extra patrols down on the trail. As a result, I think we have developed in last 24 hours some very promising leads. We’re pretty confident we’ll be able to close this case in the next couple of days.”

The suspect never approached or went after anyone during the incidents, but was seen off in the distance, Janickey added.

Town police have not had any luck, however, in finding the person or persons who stole two artistically painted benches from in front of Vienna businesses in recent weeks.

One bench disappeared from outside Grass Roots Fitness, 512 Maple Ave., W., between July 7 and 9;  the other, stationed in front of Ghaffari Orthodontics, 100 Church St., N.E., was stolen sometime between Aug. 9 at 5 p.m. and Aug. 12 at noon.

Because it is logistically difficult to cover all 40 remaining benches placed around town as part of the Vienna Arts Society’s “Take a Seat” initiative, Vienna police have increased patrols near the benches’ locations, but are urging those involved with the project to put the benches in more prominent places and secure them to fixed objects.

The department does not have any leads on who has been behind the bench thefts, Janickey said.

Mayor Laurie DiRocco expressed amazement at the thefts’ brazenness.

“You would think eventually you could get caught if you have such a bench, right?” she asked. “You’d think it would be kind of suspicious [based on] what it looks like.”

The Vienna Art Society will take steps to secure the remaining benches, but group leaders are committed to keeping the benches out in the public domain “because they are so lovely and such a joy to the community,” DiRocco said.

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