Ed. — This story was updated on Tuesday, June 28, to include information on a suspect in motor vehicle theft cases.
BY JOHN-HENRY DOUCETTE
COURTHOUSE — Virginia Beach’s planned response to concerns about recent property crimes, including stolen cars, will involve continued public engagement in the city’s rural reaches but not shifting officers as some residents would like.
City Manager Dave Hansen on Friday, June 3, forwarded a memorandum on public safety issues to City Councilmember Barbara Henley, who represents the Princess Anne District. Henley’s district includes the communities at issue. Hundreds of people have formed groups on social media to trade information amid concerns about recent residential and commercials burglaries and thefts from and of automobiles.
Police will continue to speak with the public during meetings of citizens advisory committee serving the First Precinct and monthly town hall meetings hosted by Henley, Hansen wrote in his letter.
Capt. David Squires, commanding officer of the First Precinct, spoke at the Senior Resource Center, Inc., on Wednesday, June 15, about public safety concerns.
Hansen also scheduled a town hall meeting at the fire station in Blackwater to discuss this and other issues. The Blackwater meeting, which will include other topics, is scheduled for 6 p.m., Wednesday, June 29.
Police Chief Jim Cervera delivered a memorandum to Hansen on Friday, June 3, which the manager forwarded to Henley and members of the city council. The memorandum discussed property crimes including motor vehicle theft, larcenies from autos, and residential and commercial burglary.
A copy of Hansen’s letter and Cervera’s memorandum can be found at princessanneindy.com, and excerpts from Cervera’s memorandum appear on Page 5 of this edition of The Independent News.
Cervera’s points generally mirrored those made by Squires during the Thursday, May 26, constituent forum hosted by Henley.
Crime numbers Squires discussed then covered three zones south of General Booth Boulevard and involved periods from January to May this year and last. They were mixed, with some areas up and others down, but thefts of motor vehicles are up, including in a zone including Blackwater and parts of the southern city.
So were burglaries and thefts from vehicles, but police noted the numbers don’t necessarily reflect a trend, in part, because they are relatively low. Further, Squires and Cervera have both said those numbers are not unique to the rural areas.
“The theft of motor vehicles and thefts from motor vehicles is a crime problem we are seeing throughout various areas of the city,” Cervera wrote on Friday, June 3. “We are also noting an increase in these crimes in other cities.”
Police also reported that, of the 40 thefts from vehicles in various communities, 75 percent of the cars were unlocked, and, of 12 recent motor vehicle thefts, nine incidents involved the thieves using the keys.
Squires in May also said two arrests have been made by detectives in connection to some of the cases, though no details were provided due to ongoing investigations. Cervera wrote that police have made an arrest in a series of burglaries and “a significant amount of stolen property has been recovered, and the investigation is ongoing.”
Another suspect was taken into custody in relation to car thefts, Cervera wrote.
That individual, a local teenager, is linked to a theft in Asheville Park that included a weapon that was being stored within the vehicle, and he is also linked to other incidents in the Pungo area, according to an affidavit filed at the courthouse in support of a search warrant.
He is 17 and was living in the Pungo area with a relative, according to another record filed in Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court. The Independent News is not disclosing the name of the teenager due to his age.
According to information filed in another search warrant by city Det. A.L. Anderson II, the teen is also linked to a theft on Fitztown Road and an incident in which a Pungo man had keys stolen from two cars.
The latter victim, Jon King, told The Independent News this past month that he had both vehicles rekeyed at a cost of about $500.
The teenager was taken into custody while hiding in a bathroom on Wednesday, May 25. Keys that were later found to belong to the vehicles in question were in his pocket, according to the affidavit.
The teenager was taken into custody on outstanding petitions. The Independent News could not review details of charges due to the teen’s age, but police said he is accused of grand larceny of an automobile, possession of burglary tools, destruction of property and a curfew violation.
A member of the teen’s family, reached by phone, declined to comment.
City police – including Squires during a number of citizens advisory committee meetings – repeatedly have advised the public to keep cars locked and to properly secure weapons.
In his memo, Cervera noted that he has supported additional resources for the department. However, he wrote that the department has not shifted resources from the area, as some citizens have worried, and that there is “adequate staffing.”
Squires addressed the issue on Tuesday, June 7, during a meeting of the citizens advisory committee for the First Precinct. He said that other arrests had been made in crimes in the area, though investigations were ongoing.
“We think we’re going to see a drop in stolen cars,” he said.
A member of the audience asked Squires whether there was a particular make of car thieves usually seek out.
“The type that’s unlocked with a key in it.”
A copy of Hansen’s letter and Cervera’s memorandum can be found at this link.
© 2016 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC