VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — If you look at the 21st block of Atlantic Avenue Tuesday, there’s a police substation sandwiched between late night bars.
There was great joy at the morning ribbon-cutting with Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer, council members, and law enforcement.
Inside you can see the finished product — the back area for police ATVs and bikes, a conference room with tele-conferencing and a huge open space with seven workstations with computers so police and other emergency response partners can do reports and be ready to respond to emergencies.
It should also be noted the police substation is already reducing crime, the department says, and that began the second the sign went up.
“We know from problem-based policing that locations can drive crime,” said Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate, “and what we had here prior to this was a location that not only drove our crime numbers for the resort area, but it drove it for the city.”
2nd precinct commander Capt. Harry McBrien said: “You can’t dispute the numbers with violence crime. It’s not just one factor. You add the substation anchor at the Oceanfront to all the other support we get, like Shot Spotter technology, additional cameras, our partners … our relationships with the business owners are really what helps drive those numbers down in a time of turmoil.”
Neudigate wants the substation to eventually become a 24/7 operation.
“We all want to see more cops down here,” Neudigate said. “We are the resort city, the tourists want to see the police, our visitors want to see the police, and we want to be that visual presence.”
The city pays $5,000 a month in rent, which Neudigate thinks is well worth it.
“We know we have invested significant public dollars in this, but the return on investment has already been going on the last two years,” Neudigate said.
Property owners Kate Michaels and William Haycox were in attendance, and both got tired of the crime in the 21st Street block, so they changed a lease, took out The Boxx bar and put in the police.
“We all know this is the best thing that could have happened for our city, for this area,” Michaels said. “Properties are safe, our tenants are safe.”
The proof of true success is whether this idea to put up the police substation is actually helping cut crime.
The Virginia Beach Police Substation grew out of the horror of March 26, 2021.
That’s when two were killed and eight injured in wild gun fire at the heart of the resort strip.
It was a wake-up call that more needs to be done.
“It took that tragedy to show us we need to make some drastic changes,” Neudigate said, “and to make a plea to council that we need to invest in the resort area.”
According to the police, thanks in part to the substation location, violent crime is down 50% this year compared to the past four years.
“When you have everyone working together, and you have a centralized location, and such good visibility, that all comes to play,” O’Brien said.
Proactive policing is at work and the substation has a lot to do with that.
Police tell us aggravated assaults are down 85% this year compared to the past four years.
“When we look at the total crime numbers this (the resort area) was one of the lead crime drivers for the city of Virginia Beach not just the resort area,” Neudigate said.
Sgt. Nick Ball, the Virginia Beach Resort liaison supervisor, calls the substation a place to work and to react, if necessary.
“The (seven) computer workstations right here, with all the electronic reporting, it has been easy for officers to come here, do their reports,” Ball said, “and if a call comes in, they are right here and can respond.”
March 26, 2021 also impacted the property owners who decided to move out the bar and move in the police.
“I was getting a little bit disgusted and upset,” said co-owner William Haycox, “and then this came to fruition back in 2021 and here we are.”