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The Long Hot Summer

Area police are thinking about more than sunblock and bug spray this summer. They're getting ready for a rise in crime.

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When Richmond City Police Maj. David McCoy says "activity picks up in the summertime,?VbCrLf he's not kidding. City cops are poised to combat both violent crime and quality-of-life issues in the city this summer, he says.

Since before Memorial Day, the Richmond Police have been partnered with the Virginia State Police to get illegal firearms off the street. Expect more cops to be patrolling the city streets through Labor Day - 12 more state troopers, to be exact - as an "illegal firearms reduction initiative?VbCrLf is started, in which the cops charge those possessing illegal guns with federal crimes and there will be quicker prosecution.

On Independence Day it doesn't matter whether the gun you're carrying is legal. If you fire it, you're in trouble. More city cops will be working that night to make sure people don't fire their guns in the air during all the patriotic celebrating. The Fourth of July Initiative, as McCoy calls it, will "strategically place police officers?VbCrLf across the city to respond quickly to gunshots, possibly seize the weapons, charge the patriotic perpetrator with a crime and then send the heat-packer to court. "That would kind of ruin their Fourth of July,?VbCrLf McCoy predicts.

Throughout the summer, the city police will "continue targeting street crime,?VbCrLf McCoy says. With plain-clothes police operations looking for drug sellers and buyers, McCoy says, "there's a good likelihood of arrest if you conduct yourself in that lifestyle.?VbCrLf

Also following the Richmond Police theme of zero tolerance this summer, McCoy says that blasting car stereos and causing other types of "noise complaints?VbCrLf will result in "aggressive efforts?VbCrLf by the city cops to charge summer fun gatherings with noise violations. "We're reducing the officers' discretion on this issue,?VbCrLf McCoy says. "We're going to take a more aggressive approach this summer.?VbCrLf

More uniformed officers will be patrolling the Richmond parks, McCoy says, because they're expecting "enhanced crime?VbCrLf in places like Pony Pasture, Bryan Park and Byrd Park. Summer fun there will have to make due without drinking and noise - or other vices. McCoy says city police hope to nail some "vice offenses?VbCrLf for illegal behavior in parks, especially sexually deviant acts.

Also expect to see plenty of police protection in neighborhoods, McCoy says, along with trained citizens. There will be "a much better Neighborhood Watch program of citizen soldiers,?VbCrLf he says, along with mobile command units - "a large command-post precinct on wheels in neighborhoods to increase visibility.?VbCrLf And motorcycle units will work to nail those who drive under the influence, he says.

Loupassi hopes that fighting such "nuisance crimes?VbCrLf as noise, graffiti and property damage will not eclipse the focus on bigger solutions for citizens' problems. Loupassi says Richmonders should expect a three-pronged strategy for protection this summer: reducing the number of illegal guns, putting more police on the street and providing more witness protection.

"The things that we're concerned with are drugs, violent crimes and weapons,?VbCrLf Loupassi says. "We had a man washing his car,?VbCrLf Loupassi recounted of a recent shooting, "and he's the victim of a violent, nasty, awful gun homicide. A man ought to be able to wash his car without that happening.

"Those [nuisance crimes] are things that we could deal with,?VbCrLf he says. "But if people on the streets are being shot while they're washing their cars, then we've got bigger problems.?VbCrLf

So Loupassi hopes Richmonders will see more police officers on the streets. "One of our biggest complaints from citizens is a need for increasing our police presence,?VbCrLf he says. "That is probably the quintessential issue. It's our responsibility as the council to get the police the resources necessary to get their job done.?VbCrLf

Loupassi points to the budget approved by council May 27 as an example, saying it makes major strides toward curbing criminal activity. It provides money to fund all 656 Richmond police officers, he says, makes up for the state cuts to Project Exile and triples a line item - from $50,000 to $150,000 over the next two years - for witness protection. That increase is "going to make a huge difference,?VbCrLf he says, "because we're going to be able to solve some of these awful, nasty crimes.?VbCrLf



HENRICO

In Henrico County, the general theme for summer initiatives and programs is to keep kids on the right path, says Henrico County Police Lt. H.I. Cardounel. "The younger you're able to catch folks and work with them,?VbCrLf he says, "the more attentive they'll be when they grow up and come of age.?VbCrLf

The county's three-prong strategy includes targeting teenage drunk driving, enforcing seat-belt wearing and catching drivers who run red lights.

"We received some federal grants to focus our efforts on youth drunk driving,?VbCrLf Cardounel says. "It seems only logical for teenage drunk driving to be the focus.?VbCrLf So during prom season and graduation time, Cardounel says the cops will run DUI checkpoints throughout the county.

Because sober drivers can be bad too, Henrico will implement a "safety belt awareness campaign?VbCrLf this summer. The federal program, Click It or Ticket, for which commercials already are running, is big on the East Coast, Cardounel says. Not wearing a seat belt is a "secondary offense,?VbCrLf because the cops aren't allowed to pull over a driver for that alone. But the Click It or Ticket program makes it mandatory for a traffic ticket to be written for any driver not wearing a seat belt once pulled over.

The county also will use federal funding to "make drivers more conscientious of running through red lights,?VbCrLf Cardounel says. Henrico police will coordinate their own kinds of stakeouts called Operation Red Light. Unmarked cars will wait by heavily congested intersections like Pump Road and Broad Street to spot offenders, then radio other cops waiting farther down the road to stop the driver and write a traffic summons. The stakeouts will help to stop possible traffic fatalities, Cardounel says, because there's a big connection between red-light running and accidents.

As part of their mission to reach the county's children, a lot of police will make their presence known in Henrico residents' daily summer life, too, through "community service initiatives?VbCrLf or "nonenforcement programs.?VbCrLf As the weather heats up, more cops will be bicycling through neighborhood streets. Summer-school students can expect to see police officers teaching classes such as drivers' ed. The police department will host a youth baseball camp, called Strike Out Substance Abuse (SOSA), aimed at fighting drug abuse. And the Sex Offenders Support Initiative (SOSI) will have state probation officers making personal visits to sex offenders at their homes.

Henrico residents partying this summer will have to keep a check on that stereo volume, too. "It's pretty much a given?VbCrLf that the cops will be clamping down on noise violations, Cardounel says. "In the summertime, it's more prevalent,?VbCrLf to have loud house parties and car speakers. "There is a noise ordinance,?VbCrLf he says. "It's not just an annoyance. It's a hazard.?VbCrLf And in cars, he says, loud music can make it more difficult for other cars on the road to hear emergency vehicles approaching. The punishment? A traffic summons, Cardounel says, but not necessarily a required court appearance.



CHESTERFIELD

While drugs, guns and larceny plague Chesterfield County, too, the possibility of more road fatalities is showing up sharpest on the cops' radar screen for this summer. Only the safest drivers seem to be welcome in Chesterfield County in the coming months. "We will be going after aggressive drivers, drunk drivers and people who don't wear their seat belt,?VbCrLf says Chesterfield County police Lt. Brian C. Smith, commander of the special operations unit. While his command encompasses things like street drugs and a K-9 unit, he says traffic enforcement - much of which, like his county's neighbor across the James River, Henrico County, is aimed at youths - will be his primary concern this summer. "That would be my theme,?VbCrLf Smith says.

In 2001, Chesterfield County saw 14 traffic fatalities. Last year, that number jumped to 39, which included a wreck on Interstate 95 that killed five people. "We increased by 25 in one year, which is just incredible,?VbCrLf Smith says. "That's why we put so much emphasis on our traffic unit.?VbCrLf

Thinking ahead to his plan for the summer, Smith says, "We go wherever our problems have been. Last year they were fatalities.?VbCrLf So teams of two to four officers will focus on big intersections - the No. 1 busiest intersection, Smith says, is Courthouse Road and Hull Street. "We have several (DUI) checkpoints planned that we will be working on during the summer,?VbCrLf he says. "And the goal of those checkpoints will be to target drunk drivers.?VbCrLf

Detective units will be supplemented in Chesterfield County this summer, too, Smith says. "We actually have more officers on the street during the summer.?VbCrLf Three motorcycle units will join Smith - five more officers will join the current group of six bikers. And 20 school-resource officers from middle schools and high schools in the county will be assigned back to the different bureaus to assist the shifts and the divisions.

Along with the additional detectives and the focus on aggressive drivers, the 25 additional cops under Smith will have zero tolerance for juveniles drinking alcohol. "When it comes to juveniles drinking in the summer,?VbCrLf Smith says, "we always have zero tolerance.?VbCrLf

In additional to underage drinking, Smith says Chesterfield County will focus on enforcing seat-belt laws. "We cannot stop you for going down the street without a seat belt on,?VbCrLf he says. But if a driver has already been pulled over and the cop spots the driver without a seat belt, Smith assures drivers that they will be ticketed. "We have zero tolerance for that. We are enforcing that strictly, especially with aggressive things like running a red light.?VbCrLf

While there aren't any new laws that will be enforced, and Smith says he "can't really point out any pattern?VbCrLf in the county's fatalities, he is confident that Chesterfield will work to defeat the rising fatality rates through harsher enforcement of driving laws and stricter supervision of drivers on Chesterfield's roads.



ASHLAND

In Ashland, police expect summer incidents not so much dependent on age as location. Motel rooms and Wal-Mart are on the minds of Ashland cops. "We've got a major Wal-Mart opening in June, and we don't really know the impact that that will have on our community,?VbCrLf says Ashland Chief of Police Frederic Pleasants Jr. "We're a small Police Department. We don't know the intensity of calls that will be coming in from the store.?VbCrLf So Pleasants says the new Wal-Mart will be a part of the police officers' routine beat. And with the Ashland Town Council authorizing one additional officer to be hired on the force - the new position was scheduled to take effect June 1, in time for the new store's opening - the Police Department will have 22 cops this summer.

Ashland also is cringing at the prospect of more tourist traffic from Paramount's Kings Dominion. Pleasants says he can't give any specific numbers as to the amount of tourists expected to be coming to town this summer, though he says the neighboring city of Doswell, where the theme park is located, does have two motels. "But that's not enough to handle?VbCrLf all the overflow traffic, he says.

The summer is "an extremely busy time for the town,?VbCrLf Pleasants says. "We have a thousand motel rooms in Ashland. We obviously increase our scrutiny and patrols of those motels.?VbCrLf

The Ashland Police also are planning for an increase in larcenies, as more bicycles are ridden - and stolen - and more car windows are left down during the summer. So the message Pleasants is trying to send to the citizens of Ashland this summer: "You need to secure your cars and not leave your property visible.?VbCrLf

Ashland's cops aren't just bracing for increased vandalism and larceny as the temperature rises and the tourists increase. Pleasants says he's increasing Neighborhood Watches, which he describes as citizen efforts to actively fight crime in the community. "We have seven very active neighborhood associations,?VbCrLf he says. "Neighborhood Watch is a great organization.?VbCrLf

Last year's sniper appearance in Ashland affected the Police Department and put Pleasants in the national spotlight. However, Pleasants says that hasn't had a significant effect on the focus of his local law-enforcement methods for the summer. The sniper terror lasted five days, he says, and the hysteria ended when the alleged perpetrator was apprehended. "I can't honestly say that there's any kind of backlash,?VbCrLf he says.

Nevertheless, he says, "One way or another, we know we're vulnerable. We have to be a little more vigilant.?VbCrLf S

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