White Hall District Planning Commissioner Tom Loach, who is also a Crozet volunteer firefighter, proposed the creation of a Crozet public safety group that would address local crime prevention issues at the Feb. 21 meeting of the Crozet Community Advisory Council.
The “Crozet Constabulary,” as he dubbed it, would be the first such group in the county but follows the pattern established by a national organization, Citizens on Patrol, Loach said. He was joined in the proposal by Jim Crosby, a Crozet ham radio operator who was a founder of the Western Albemarle Rescue Squad.
County police now assign one officer per shift to the western Albemarle sector, which stretches from Greene County to the Nelson County line. Crozet is expected to grow to a population of about 15,000, making it one-third the size of Charlottesville, which has a police department with 105 officers, Loach said.
County police officer Steve Watson addressed the idea approvingly but with some evident hesitation over how to provide training volunteers in the group would need.
“We’re trying to reinvigorate the neighborhood watch programs,” Watson said. “We’re trying to get more people involved in emergency preparedness. We want a more neighborhood feel [to policing strategy]. It would be great to have a group that can bring people together for that.” He called it a “third leg” that would complement the CVFD and WARS.
“We’re a growing community. We need to get started,” said Loach. “This is about crime prevention, not law enforcement. You’ve heard about the broken window; we want to keep the window from getting broken.”
It was the first time CCAC members had heard the idea. Lt. Greg Jenkins, who commands the Blue Ridge patrol sector encompassing Crozet, will likely be invited to discuss how it might be implemented.
In other business, the CCAC heard a discussion about elementary school redistricting and building capacity, with PTO members from both Crozet and Brownsville Elementary schools describing their views of the choices. The CCAC hesitated when school policy became implicated, but insisted that it did want to influence any decision about where a third elementary school might be built or how altered attendance zone boundaries might affect neighborhoods. The discussion raised hopes on the CCAC that the schools will develop solidarity with each other over the looming school addition and redistricting decisions.
White Hall District Supervisor Ann Mallek informed the CCAC that the Crozet Growth Area has been added to the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, a group that plans for highway and transportation needs. The move means Crozet projects will be eligible for federal highway funds, she said. The MPO has two representatives from Albemarle (currently Supervisors Rodney Thomas and Duane Snow) and two from Charlottesville City Council on it.