Danville residents share thoughts on police department's new crime reduction effort

Police department has divided city up into two focus areas

DANVILLE, Va. – The area near Woodrow Wilson Intermediate School is what the Danville Police Department now refers to as the north side.

Jotonia Hicks has lived in the area for about two and a half years.

She's glad to hear it's now a focus for the police department.

"It makes me feel a lot more comfortable," Hicks said. "(I would like to see) meetings, come door to door, whatever helps."

When asked what she would like to tell police, she said she just wants to see them get to know the residents.

"Try to talk to people and see where they're coming from," Hicks said.

Police Chief Scott Booth said creating the north side and south side areas is part of his restructuring of the department to have what he calls a more geographic focus.

"From my experience with other agencies that I've been a part of, when you give a captain, a command-level officer, geographic accountability, a piece of ground to be accountable to the community and to the staff on, some great things can happen," said Booth.

He said this strategy led to big crime reductions in the 2000s in Richmond when he was with the police department there.

"I think one of the ways we get there is by meeting with the community, seeing what their problems are and hopefully effectively solving those problems," Booth said.

He considered dividing the city into four focus areas but decided on two because, he said, city residents already see the city as being naturally divided into a north and south side.

"I had taken some senior-level officers and, through attrition and retirement, we had repurposed those positions into front-line supervisors. So we have more officers on the ground than at those higher levels. I thought this was the best way for us to proceed," Booth explained.

He has not ruled out the creation of additional focus areas in the future.

Timmy Moore has lived in the north side area for about five years.

He said speeding and drug deals are two problems he'd like to see addressed.

"I'd like to see (police) come up here and sit down because when they come sit down, everything's cool. But when they leave, everything goes wild and crazy," Moore said.

The officers assigned to oversee the focus areas will hold meetings and other events to increase communication between the residents who live in the areas and the department, which the department hopes will ultimately help reduce crime.

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