Albemarle County police are proposing to use the county-owned Crozet depot as a police station for western Albemarle now that it no longer houses the library. The idea will go to the Board of Supervisors for approval and inclusion in the capital projects budget. It would be the first local station in the county.
Police Lt. Greg Jenkins, who heads the department’s Blue Ridge District (the western and southern parts of the county) in the department’s new geo-policing strategy, prepared a report on the idea for Chief Steve Sellers before the suggestion was advanced for the supervisors’ consideration. Police Major Ron Lantz said that White Hall District Supervisor Ann Mallek had asked the police to look into the feasibility of using the depot as a police station.
Jenkins said his investigation revealed that the county’s cost in maintaining the depot while not being used is nearly what it would cost to maintain it if it were being used.
“When we transitioned to geo-policing, we began looking at the decentralization of headquarters and the idea of using the depot came up,” said Lantz. “It’s all timing. There are some costs in converting it for our use.”
Lantz said the report’s “wish list” of renovations—such things as upgraded bathrooms, a locker room, an interview room, a roll call room and kitchenette, plus preparing it for use as an emergency headquarters—come to about $349,000, but that fewer, cheaper alterations could still make it suitable for the department.
Lantz said the depot could be configured to have a “shelter” for officers that would allow them to stay over in times of emergency, such as when storms cause power to be lost. It could also be configured to host training sessions.
“It’s not going to require that much stuff. We need new reinforced doors and a kitchenette. It’s not an overhaul.”
Lantz said the station would be the base for seven officers assigned daily to western patrol sectors in the county and would likely be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. He said the department would look for volunteers to staff the station while officers were on patrol and that he hoped Crozet Safety Corps members would participate.
Jenkins said that officers assigned to the district would come to work at the station and start their day already in their sector rather than report first to the Charlottesville headquarters on Fifth Street.
“If we’re there, we become neighbors in the community,” said Lantz. “That’s our philosophy, and it should mean a reduction in response times. If you get that reduction, it’s a sign that geo-policing is working. Plus, you should get a reduction in crime because the presence of the police is more strongly felt and it creates deterrence. We should also get better information because we are here and people know our faces.”
Lantz said that parking is limited at the depot and that an arrangement to use available spaces across Three Notch’d Road may be necessary to accommodate situations such as training sessions. He said three or four cruisers could park at the service door of the depot.
Lantz said the department is receptive to using part of the depot as a museum space for the western part of the county where exhibits about Crozet history could be staged.
“I cut my teeth as a patrolman on the west side of the county,” said Jenkins. “The folks here do want to help the police. People are receptive to us. If we get the green light, we’ll have a community meeting here to solicit input.”