Virginia Beach, Va. - College Beach Weekend 2013 was the wake-up call.
Virginia Beach Police didn't want a repeat, so they saturated the Oceanfront this year — and Beach Weekend 2014 was a success.
Still, that’s not enough for Police Chief Jim Cervera, he wants to start planning for the future.
Oceanfront events just keep getting bigger, new businesses and apartments are popping up all over the city and with Light Rail and an arena in the works, more people could be coming to visit Virginia Beach than ever before.
“We don’t want to be in a situation down the road where we are playing catchup,” said Chief Cervera.
He wants to hire nearly 60 new cops and create dedicated forces in hotspots around the city, like the Oceanfront, where 26 of those officers would be permanently stationed.
“I think the biggest thing is to have police officers visible,” said Chief Cervera.
That's not the only priority. With new towers, restaurants and shopping opening up left and right, the Chief wants to make sure the ever-growing Town Center area is properly policed.
“If you don’t grow with Town Center, then you get to a tipping point,” said Chief Cervera.
That means adding 15 officers dedicated solely to the emerging “Downtown Area” of Virginia Beach.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Jeanie Evans Cox, the director for the Central Business District Association. “We expect huge growth, and the need will come. When you bring people, the need will come.”
The Chief, though, hasn't forgotten about his neighborhoods. He is also requesting an extra 17 officers for community policing efforts that have brought down crime in neighborhoods like Bayside, College Park, and Green Run.
“If people don’t feel safe, they are not going to want to live here,” said Heidi Daniels, the community manager for the Green Run Homes Association.
With the police department's help, robberies and burglaries have dropped in the neighborhood from 1-2 a week, to 1-2 a month.
“Even though our crime rate has gone down significantly, we want to get it down even lower,” said Daniels.
That's why they support the police chief's proposal, which would put 2-3 officers in the Green Run Area at all times.
Daniels says it's needed with all the new growth along their Princess Anne Road border.
“They are building so quickly, and if you don’t build your police force, you are not going to be able to go out and do those calls, you are not going to be able to get out to neighborhoods to see what the problems are. You are going to be reactive, and that’s it,” said Daniels.
In all, 58 new cops would cost a grand total of $15.5 million over five years.
None of it, though, is in Virginia Beach’s proposed budget for the year…all of the police officer funding was denied.
So NewsChannel 3 went to City Hall this week, to ask Mayor Will Sessoms why.
“We will get an additional police force in the years ahead, but it will not be started this year,” said Sessoms. “The crime rate is going down in Virginia Beach, which shows we are adequately funding the police force.”
Mayor Sessoms is technically right - the crime rate in Virginia Beach is the lowest it’s been since 1964, but as we learned after the first College Beach Weekend, the failure to plan ahead has consequences.
“Well, let’s be candid,” said Sessoms. “It will be years before any of those projects come to fruition and I would think by the time an arena opens, and Light Rail comes across city line, we should have addressed police by that time.”