VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The substation the Virginia Beach Police Department opened last year in the heart of the Oceanfront resort has been successful, according to the police chief.
During City Council’s Tuesday work session last week, Police Chief Paul Neudigate touted the fact that the rate of shootings and violent crime have dropped in the block in which the substation is located within the last year.
However, the condition of the substation is far from anything anyone would consider a success.
It was in May 2021, following deadly shootings in late March and an overall increase in violent crime across the county, the City Council approved $500,000 for police to renovate and move into the former home of “The Boxx” bar at 2110 Atlantic Avenue.
The goal? Increase police presence in an area of the resort that has often seen trouble.
Neudigate said from June 2018-June 2019, police were called to the 2100 block of Atlantic Avenue and surrounding side streets 1,153 times.
The area, also referred to as “the block” is home to several bars.
At the time Capt. Harry McBrien, with VBPD, who leads the squad in the resort, said he could also use the space for “meet-and-greets … reaching out to the community. ‘Coffee with a cop’ type events.”
But that hasn’t yet happened yet and the city is paying $5,000 a month to rent the space.
“It’s in pretty bad shape inside,” McBrien told Resort Advisory Commission members at their April meeting. “It wasn’t budgeted properly.”
McBrien estimated another $500,000 would be needed to fix the space’s structural issues. Tuesday Neudigate elaborated cracked beams in the ceiling as well as warped beams were cause for concern.
“There are some substantial things that need to be fixed to occupy it more than what we would like,” Neudigate said.
Neudigate tried to hit home that officers have been given the go ahead to use the space for “brief periods of time.”
“It’s really a place for our officers to take a break, take a phone call, use the restroom, maybe a brief meeting,” Neudigate said. “But we really don’t want our officers sitting in a substation.”
Neudigate would rather see them out trying to proactively prevent crime. In a nine day span in April, officers seized 36 “illegally possessed firearms” from the Oceanfront.
From June 2020-21, Police were called to the “the block” and surrounding side streets 545 times. From June 2021-April 22, 2022, after the substation opened, that number was 430 times, a 21% reduction, Neudigate said.
“Our last shooting in the Oceanfront was June 19, 2021,” Neudigate said. “The acquisition alone has already paid dividends in being part of our effort to reduce crime and disorder at the Oceanfront.”
Still several council members want to see the building more utilized.
“To make it much more comfortable for our officers,” said Vice Mayor Rosemary Wilson.
City Manager Patrick Duhaney said the economic development department is reaching out with building owners to see about potential improvements to the building.
Since late 2020, more than $2 million has been invested in Oceanfront security initiatives. Virginia Beach Police now have 22 new high definition surveillance cameras installed, with an additional 20 on the way. In addition, ShotSpotter gunshot detection technology is fully functional, lighting is being upgraded and a public address system has been installed along the boardwalk.