Looking ahead to 2019: Williamsburg Police Department's community policing intiative

Staff Writer

The Williamsburg Police Department implemented a long-talked-about community policing initiative in August 2018 with the hopes that more police officers reaching more residents would benefit the city.

The program came to the fore in early 2018 as Williamsburg Police Chief Sean Dunn looked to replicate a similar initiative he implemented in Martinsville.

“The more we can be out of our car in our communities building solid relationships with our citizens, the more likely we are to prevent acts of crime and violence and the more likely we are to improve the quality of life in all of our neighborhoods,” Dunn said in August.

After community workshops and a lot of talk, Sgt. Bruce Johnson led the changes in the department’s policing philosophy.

“I started back in 2004,” Johnson said of his beat in Highland Park. “It’s a lot quieter now. We’ve been doing community policing, but not the way Chief Dunn’s doing it now.”

The difference, Johnson said, is the scope of Dunn’s plan to engage large swathes of the city.

After the department’s pilot community policing program in August, Dunn had a chance to figure out what worked and what didn’t. Then he added five officers to the program to expand its coverage area.

Police officers from Johnson in Highland Park to Kory Dodd in the Jamestown Road area and Cierra Bastion in the Merrimac Trail neighborhoods, the program will look to not only stop crime before it happens but connect residents with city services, Dunn said.

“As we move forward we’re creating the recipe book, if you will, so that when officers come across quality of life issues, non-policing type issues, that they’re able to learn from the experiences of other officers,” Dunn said. “What we’re building is a situation where a member of one of our communities where police officers can act as points of contact for the city and the community.”

In 2019, Dunn’s initiative could see tweaks as even more information comes back to the chief, and by early 2020 the full effects of the program will come to light. The proof will be in the number of crimes yet to occur and sentiments of residents going forward.

Roberts can be reached at 757-604-1329, by email at srobertsjr@vagazette.com and on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.

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