Targeted approaches in First Precinct to address different challenges in Ashville Park, Sandbridge

Police Sgt. Mary Jo Crooke and Master Police Officer Aaron Dove of the Mounted Patrol Unit patrol in Ashville Park on Saturday, Feb. 11. The neighborhood saw a rise in property crimes involving automobiles last year — though all were unlocked. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]

COURTHOUSE – Police Capt. David Squires, commanding officer of the First Precinct, said police are working in two different neighborhoods in southern Virginia Beach that are facing challenges involving different property crimes. 

In Sandbridge, a residential neighborhood that is also a rental-fueled resort, the challenge is addressing the greater number of burglaries in 2016 following a drop the year earlier. 

For Ashville Park, a newer, suburban neighborhood near Pungo, the challenge is a rise in thefts of and from automobiles this past year after having virtually none in the previous few years.

Squires discussed these matters this past month during a meeting of the First Precinct Citizens Advisory Committee and in an interview with The Independent News.

Following a meeting with Ashville Park residents in January, Squires said police will work with the neighborhood, including a canvass the community with rearview mirror hang tags that are part of the department’s “Beep It To Keep It” public information campaign.

That canvass was held on Saturday, March 11, and a story about that effort appears in the current print edition of The Independent News. It is being distributed this weekend. 

In an email to the community, Squires also urged residents to remove valuables such as cash and weapons from their cars, avoid leaving car keys in their vehicles, and simply lock their doors.

Squires said there were 11 larcenies from motor vehicles and two motor vehicle thefts in the neighborhood in 2016, after having only one such crime reported there in the previous three years. In each instance, the cars were unlocked. When cars were stolen, thieves had access to the keys. A gun was stolen from one vehicle. 

Squires said, “After the canvass, we’ll be measuring to see what we see in these parked cars.” 

Police will both check to see whether people use them and whether criminal activity occurs.

“They’re being very proactive working with us to address the problem before it becomes a serious problem,” Squires said.

Squires said police also met in January with members of the Sandbridge Beach Civic League, where they discussed burglary and property crimes.

“Not only are we getting ready for the summer season, but our focus is going to be on reducing the likelihood of persistent theft and burglary,” Squires said.

That effort will be a consistent focus, and surveillance technology will be part of the effort.

“We’re going to be experimenting with a couple different technologies,” he said.

Joan Davis, the civic league’s president, wrote the league’s February newsletter that Squires told the civic league cameras will be installed at the entrance of the community before the summer.

“The cameras will take pictures of the license plates of cars coming in and out of Sandbridge,” Davis wrote. “This has been a six-year, well needed safety feature in the making.”

Squires, in an interview, noted that one challenge in the Sandbridge community is homes that are not always occupied.

“We’ve had burglaries and larcenies from that community that sometimes go days without being reported,” Squires said.

Joe Mundt of Ashville Park plays with two of his children, Evan, 6, and Noelle, 4. After his wife heard about larcenies from cars, Mundt said his family made sure to keep their cars locked and remove garage door openers. “Take the valuables out of your car and be done with it,” he added. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]

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