VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – 10 On Your Side spent a recent afternoon traveling with the Commander of the 2nd Precinct, Captain Harry McBrien, in what is known as a “Gator”, which is a no-door, easy to get around vehicle. 

Two years ago Capt. McBrien took over the 2nd Precinct and in a short period changed the vibe in the relationship among the police and the other stakeholders at the resort strip.  

Captain McBrien is bound up with positive attitude. He expressed, “For many years it was police against the businesses. ‘You are too loud, you are not taking care of your business….’ All that has changed. The vibe has changed; it is positive, people are having good times and enjoying themselves.” 

The 2nd precinct covers the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, known as Zone 227, from North to South Rudee Loop to 42nd Street.  East to west it runs from the beach to Mediterranean Avenue.  

Capt. McBrien said, “Statistics prove things have gotten better in the last two years.” 

Virginia Beach Police Crime Statistics:

  • Overall Crime down 27% 
  • Aggravated Assaults down 46% 
  • Shooting Incidents down 71%  
  • Shooting Victims down 75% 

“These statistics show what we are doing is working.” 

Captain Harry McBrien

What’s working? McBrien says it is all about teamwork between law enforcement, business owners, restaurants, bars and hotels. “It is the teams approach. Everyone is working together, modern technology, ShotSpotter, cameras, all that. Officers are focused on violent crime and going after violent criminals.” 

The 2023 goal: working together to provide a safer environment.  

There is more technology with eyes in the sky. “We have increased cameras, 80-100 cameras, and now we are pretty much watching the whole Oceanfront.” 

What happens when shots are fired? “O.K. let’s say we are here on 21st Street.  We hear shots, boom, shots go off. Officers do not hear it, but ShotSpotter picks it up within 45 seconds to one minute and we are getting alerts,” McBrien explained. 

ShotSpotter explains how the technology works:

“ShotSpotter uses an array of acoustic sensors that are connected wirelessly to ShotSpotter’s centralized, cloud-based application to reliably detect and accurately triangulate (locate) gunshots.”   

McBrien spoke about Pharrell’s upcoming Something in the Water festival.   

For police, it’s going to be all hands-on deck, he said. “The entire police department is activated.  Days off are cancelled. We are bringing in our State Police brothers and sisters to assist us with traffic direction and things like that. The Sheriff’s deputies are walking side-by-side with officers helping with traffic, assisting with calls for service. They are an additional resource for us.” 

Atlantic Avenue is now lit up like a Christmas tree thanks to new lighting. We could not get an official count on how many lights there are, but suffice it to say it is the brightest Atlantic Avenue has ever been. The new LED lights are so bright you can’t look at them. It hurts the eye. There are lots of these LED lights on all blocks, especially in what is known as “The Core” of the Oceanfront, which is 17th-25th streets. 

McBrien sums up the additional lighting,  

“LED lights make people feel more safe. Statistics show darker areas are more apt to have crime and stuff like that.”  

To increase police presence, in June 2021 the city established the Virginia Beach Police Department Substation in the 21st Street block. 

This chart’s red line shows the reduction in crime in that big party block since police bought out the existing lease for what was The Boxx Bar.

“Just for this block there is a 67% reduction of violent crime.  67%! Think about that,” McBrien said with pride.

When asked if he credits just having the building say “Virginia Beach Police Department Substation” on it for reducing crime, he replied, “Of course, there’s no doubt about it.” 

The Atlantic Avenue attitude seems to be ‘we’re with you, you’re with us, we’re in this together.’ 

“Our monthly bar meetings are working.  What is nice about them, if we have an issue each of the bar owners, restaurant owners, they get up and talk about the issue that occurred and we discuss how we can keep that from happening again.” 

Drew Diamond owns CBI SECURITY and runs security at six Atlantic Avenue establishments, 

“Everybody at the Oceanfront has Capt. Harry’s cell phone, which we never had before. This year they came up with a new program where all the officers who work this area have a specific cell phone designated to them,and these big meetings every quarter keep everyone in touch, to keep in communication with each other. We talk about everything, ABC issues, safety, security at restaurants and bars, upcoming events to let us know what is going on from a police standpoint.  We talk about people control, and traffic control, and ways to maintain our crowds,” Diamond said. 

All of that is from connected communication among the stakeholders. That’s what Capt. McBrien means when he talks about everyone being connected. 

As he walks down Atlantic Avenue, if he weren’t in uniform you would think he was the Mayor of Atlantic Avenue, and maybe he is. 

“Look how clean it is out here with the Ambassador’s Program,” he pointed out. 

Capt. McBrien credits the Ambassador’s Program for keeping Atlantic Avenue clean and friendly. “If you have a dirty looking place there is more chance to have crime down here. When you keep it clean you make people feel they are in a good environment with less crime, and that’s what we have.” 

McBrien stopped to talk to Ambassadors Jan Garcia and Sara Dixon.  He points them out as examples of the importance of the Ambassador’s Program. 

Garcia told us, “We love what we do. We come out here for people who are visiting and make sure they have a nice experience out here.” 

We asked McBrien for his prediction on this upcoming summer.

“I predict we will have a summer where millions of people will have a safe, enjoyable summer.” 

Let’s all hope Capt. Harry McBrien is right.