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Buena Vista PD makes major changes: Adds body cameras, neighborhood watch, patrol bikes

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BUENA VISTA (WSLS 10) - The Buena Vista Police Department will make several major upgrades and changes thanks to grant money and a new police chief. The department is focusing on community relations and policing efforts.

"It’s community involvement that we haven't had for a long time,” said Mary Huffman, local store owner of Flowers and Things.

The Buena Vista Police Department is making some big changes and people are noticing. Changes like body cameras for all patrol officers.

"This will be a first for our department and a first for the region,” commented Buena Vista Police Chief Keith Hartman. “I don't think anybody has cameras in this area at all."

Hartman started at the department almost one year ago. Coming from Newport News, he's focusing on improving policing efforts in the city.

The next step will be 12 body cameras at about $800 apiece.  The hardware is paid for by a grant from the Department of Criminal Justice.

"I think they help everyday even on a minor traffic stop,” said Hartman. “It gives you evidence for court."

The cameras are expected to arrive within the next eight weeks.

"Chief Hartman told us it's all about establishing a relationship with the community. Last year he started up bike patrols and a month ago the department bought two new bikes with the grant money."

"It gives them more face-to-face interaction,” said the Chief. “They’re able to get off the bikes, stop, talk to people and go into stores."

And, local business owners are noticing.

"I’ve certainly noticed it,” said Huffman. “They're starting to check our doors at night to make sure we didn't accidentally leave something open...love that."

The department has also recently started a neighborhood watch group.

"Community policing is really the main thing that we have to do,” said Patrol Officer Chris Wheeler. “The more we can involve the community in our policing, the more chances we have to solve crimes."

After a year, Chief Hartman told us they are making progress -- one camera, one bike one community at a time.