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Danville city officials joined with citizens Saturday morning for a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Third Avenue Police Precinct, which is located at 128 Third Ave. adjacent the fire station in North Danville.
Vice Mayor Alonzo Jones encouraged residents in the neighborhood to visit the precinct often and take advantage of the opportunity to meet the police officers, talk with them and get to know them as they work at the precinct. In turn, he said, the officers will come to know residents.
“In essence, we are creating a partnership with this neighborhood,” Jones said. “Partnerships formed at the grassroots level by police officers are absolutely vital to fighting crime."
Jones continued, saying, “This new precinct extends our outreach to this neighborhood’s families and businesses. You will see police officers in and out of this building throughout the week. In short, they will become your neighbors.”
The Third Avenue Police Precinct is the second satellite office in operation by the Police Department. The other precinct is on Green Street.
Opening the new precinct is one of the strategies the City is using to reduce violent crime. The effort to reduce violent crime is one of three focus areas that City Council identified during a retreat in October that it wanted addressed immediately.
In December, City Manager Ken Larking and Police Chief Philip Broadfoot presented to City Council a plan that consisted of nearly 30 short-term and long-term strategies to reduce violent crime, which went from a record low in 2014 to a record high in 2016.
In addition to expanding beyond the Green Street precinct to develop a fixed police presence in other at-risk neighborhoods, the short-term strategies included, for example, establishing a gang task force and increasing funding to support the Police Department’s informant fund to compensate adequately individuals who wish to share critical violent crime information.
The long-term strategies included, for example, community wealth-building efforts to reduce poverty, developing community-based programs to bring structured activities to children in their neighborhoods, and continued property blight eradication.
“I love this city. It is my home, and this city is your home,” Jones said. “By your presence here today, you show that you care. When we care deeply about something, we do not accept the status quo, but actively try to change it. We try to make it better. That’s why we are here today.”
The building that will be used for the police precinct on Third Avenue was formerly used by the Virginia Extension Service.
Broadfoot said this precinct will operate similar to the one on Green Street. “That precinct is populated every day by officers who are coming and going,” he said. “We welcome citizens of these neighborhoods that are close by to stop in anytime.”
Broadfoot said when officers are not present at the precinct, citizens can call the Police Department and request that an officer meet them at the precinct.
“We will welcome you in and listen to any of the issues you have and work on things together,” he said. “That is the key to community policing.”
The Rev. Shevi Sloane, pastor of Third Avenue Congregational Christian Church, said the precinct is needed in the neighborhood. “We hope residents in this community will feel more at peace when they see they have servants from our police department and City willing to help them in their time of need.”
He continued, saying, “It is becoming increasingly harder to be a police officer in our day and time. We recognize every move they make and everything they have to do in a split second is scrutinized, and yet they show up every day to be first responders, to be on the scene and to be there to help everyone in need. When we look for someone to help, they are always there. I believe today signifies a new era for the Third Avenue community, the White Rock community and this area of North Danville.”