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Column: Connecting police, citizens through advisory committees

BY LINDA RUSSELL

CARDINAL ESTATES — The Virginia Beach Police Department Citizens Advisory Committees were established in each of the police precincts in 1991. My neighborhood doesn’t have a civic league or community association. I rely on CAC meetings for the First Police Precinct for any concerns and issues we may have. 

Not only are there a variety of city departments at the meetings, but there are guest speakers such as Commissioner of the Revenue Phil Kellam, Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle, even the police chief himself, James Cervera, who has provided me with important information about our city. The chief and other police officers regularly speak about issues facing the department and in our communities.

During a First Precinct advisory commission meeting in June, I mentioned to police Capt. David Squires, the commanding officer for the precinct, that I had seen kids playing outside in my neighborhood. He just did his usual smile, but as the meeting progressed he mentioned the remark, as if gauging my comment to our progress in my neighborhood. 

There is a reason it was important to see children play in my neighborhood. In late 2016, a string of shootings took place Virginia Beach, leaving two people dead and four wounded. Many of us felt the fear and anger, and we asked why? 

The first shooting linked to the suspects was the evening of Nov. 29, 2016. It was at houses next to mine. They say that we are lucky that no one was home at any of the homes, but the bullets were still there. Bullets hit a water pipe and flooded one home.

Officers were very prompt and were out there in no time. The next evening, officers and others came out and went door to door asking for information that would help lead to the arrest of the ones responsible for the shootings.  

My neighbors had bought their home some years back for the same reasons most of us buy our homes. There was a mom, dad and a little girl about the age of my granddaughter who live at the end of my street. Soon there would be a baby boy and, as I watched them bring him home from the hospital, I was almost as excited as they where.

I watched as he grew and grew and laughed as he was looking around like he couldn’t wait to get out and about to play. Soon he would be doing just that – sometimes yelling to my son who would be over cutting my grass or doing some other chore for me. We definitely had our own “Dennis the Menace,” and we loved every minute of it. 

After the shootings, my neighbors spent time elsewhere, especially at night. They didn’t feel safe in their home. They even spoke of moving to a safer neighborhood. I wished them well and hoped that they would find such a place, but I didn’t know where to tell them to look. With all of the help, I do feel that mine is one of the safest in Virginia Beach. 

We did feel some relief after the arrests were made and those responsible were sent to jail. After almost two years, the last of the defendants pleaded guilty and will be behind bars for decades.

My neighbors have decided to stay where they are. There was extra police presence, not only in vehicles but officers on bicycles, and the children love petting the horses. With the officers riding throughout the neighborhood, I feel like we are an even safer place to live. 

Home is a place where you feel safe, loved and supported. It is where caring families can sit down with their children during the evening meal and discuss the events of the day. 

As parents and grandparents, we can help our children not be afraid or distrust the police. We bring these little bundles of joys home from the hospital. We struggle with the baby seats that protect them. But we don’t always remember to tell them why police do what they do. 

We tell them to buckle their seat belts or the police will write us a ticket. With their first bicycles we put a helmet on their heads, and we warn them, but we don’t explain the safety reasons but that a policeman will get them. 

As they become teens, it only gets worse as we explain all of the safety issues involved with driving, drinking and more, but we should make them understand the role police play in protecting us and working with communities to make them safer.

We should remember that ourselves. CAC meetings often show the challenges our police face and the work they are doing to meet those challenges.


The First Precinct Citizens Advisory Committee meets at 7 p.m., first Tuesdays, usually at Building 19 at the Municipal Center, except during the summer. Reach Fran Laskey for information via cac.firstprecinct@yahoo.com.


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