The Albemarle County Police Department will institute an “geo-policing” policy some time in December with the aim of improving its relationships with citizens and its knowledge of local crime conditions, police Lt. Greg Jenkins explained to a sparsely attended town hall meeting organized at the White Hall Community Center Oct. 27 by White Hall District Supervisor Ann Mallek.
The county will be divided into two districts, the smaller Jefferson District on the east and north sides, and the Blue Ridge District, encompassing western and southern Albemarle. Each district will have four sectors. Jenkins said that the Blue Ridge District will have five or possibly six officers assigned to it every day. Jenkins will be the district commander for the Blue Ridge District.
The key change to the new policy is that it leaves officers assigned to the same sectors, just like old-style beat cops, rather than shifting them around, so that they can develop personal relationships with citizens and a more intimate knowledge of locales. The long-range goal is to build greater trust between police and citizens.
“We’re looking at officers’ backgrounds now to see where they connect best,” said Jenkins. “The purpose is to leave these officers in the same sector all the time. There’s no continuity with the citizens now.
“What we have now is called ‘time-of-day policing,’ three shifts with three commanders,” said Jenkins. After the change, Jenkins will be responsible for his district around the clock, not just during his shift.
“This requires more ownership by the officers at the ground level,” Jenkins explained. “We’ll be getting at problems. Citizens will be given phone numbers they can call to reach the their district police supervisors.”
Jenkins told a story about how he had stopped two boys who were riding bicycles recently but not wearing helmets. They were scared and thought they were in trouble. Instead Jenkins gave them two helmets bearing police decals that he happened to have with him. The boys were excited to wear them and their parents later contacted him with gratitude. “It’s about building trust,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins, raised in Winchester, has been with the Albemarle police department for 25 years. He will be living in his district and is familiar with the Crozet area.
“I’m excited about it,” he said. “We’ve always had this philosophy, but this is a better way of doing it.” Jenkins said the department had first looked at forming three districts, but it doesn’t have the manpower to staff that plan.
Jenkins said he wants to form an eight- to 10-member citizen advisory committee for his district.
A police substation in Crozet is not likely in the near future, Jenkins said. Judging by the number of demand-for-service calls, the Hollymead area is a higher priority, he explained. “It has the most demand now. It has the most people and it’s congested. If we get there [to establishing substations], it will be the place where officers report from their homes.”
Jenkins said officer Ron Davis is investigating graffiti “tagging” at the new Crozet library construction site and some other locations in town.