ASHVILLE PARK — Local Girl Scouts were among those who visited this neighborhood off Princess Anne Road near Pungo on Saturday, March 11, to knock on every door. They delivered a simple pitch. Though it was cookie season, all they had to sell was a lesson about preventing crime.
They carried information about avoiding property crimes involving cars and signs to place on dashboards or hang from rearview mirrors, all part of the police department’s “Beep It To Keep It” public information campaign.
The canvass by the Girl Scouts — along with members of the Virginia Beach Police Explorer Post 911, police officers and a few parents — is part of outreach meant to to combat a rise in thefts from and of vehicles, property crimes that have been on the rise here and elsewhere in recent years.
Ashville Park saw 11 larcenies from motor vehicles and two stolen cars in 2016, after having only one similar crime in the previous three years. As The Independent News reported earlier this year, cars were unlocked. In one case, a gun was taken among a wide range of valuables. And thieves had access to keys when they got away with vehicles.
Police Capt. David Squires, commanding officer of the First Precinct, said officers will continue to work with the neighborhood, checking to see whether people use and display the tags – and, of course, monitoring results. During a briefing before the canvass, Squires told the young people helping the effort that their work was meant to reinforce the practice of removing valuables from cars and locking them.
In the neighborhood, Lauren Palmiere, 13, and Mia Palmiere, 9, walked with Master Police Officer Melissa Johnston from the crime analysis unit.
“We’re here to remind you to lock your car and take valuables out,” Mia Palmiere said at one house.
Resident Michael Gallegos said he had heard about thefts from vehicles in the neighborhood.
“It’s great they’re doing this,” he said.
Bella Sandelier, 12, and Marissa DeSimas, 11, walked elsewhere in the neighborhood.
“I think it’s cool,” Marissa DeSimas said. “It just encourages people to –”
“Be safe,” Sandelier said.
“To lock their doors,” DeSimas added.
The effort is meant to help people change behaviors after the rise in auto-related property crimes after virtually none were reported in previous years.
“In each case, the car was unlocked,” Squires said.
Police Explorers Xevier Carden, 16, Benjamin Huffman, 17, and Aidan Bass, 17, knocked on doors, too, elsewhere in the community.
Carden handed out a tag to Rick Taylor, Diana Glasier and Justin Glasier.
The family was one of the ones who had something stolen from a car last year, though normally their vehicles are locked. They gladly accepted a tag from the police explorer.
“Anything to deter them,” Diana Glasier said.
The community is establishing a neighborhood watch program, recruiting members and attending training with city police.
Devan Maloney, who has lived in the neighborhood for less that a year, is the program’s coordinator, and she worked with police and the Girl Scouts on the canvass.
Efforts to form the neighborhood watch already were underway when the series of property crimes involving automobiles happened last year.
Maloney said Ashville Park is a place whose residents can help each other prevent additional issues.
“We’re a very tight-knit community,” Maloney said in a telephone interview. “One of the most important things Virginia Beach police mentioned, as far as a quality neighborhood watch program, is knowing your neighbors. I think we do.”
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