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JCC Police: Potential Gang Activity at School, Threats to Witnesses Prompts Grove Community Meeting

Acting James City County Police Chief Brad Rinehimer talks to residents from Grove during a community  meeting Monday at Little Zion Baptist Church. (Gregory Connolly/WYDaily)

Acting James City County Police Chief Brad Rinehimer talks to residents from Grove during a community meeting Monday at Little Zion Baptist Church. (Gregory Connolly/WYDaily)

The James City County Police Department had one message for Grove residents who turned out to a community  meeting Monday night: Call us.

Several officers — including Acting Chief Brad Rinehimer — attended Monday’s meeting at Little Zion Baptist Church, which attracted dozens of residents from Grove, a neighborhood in the southeastern corner of the county. For more than an hour they briefed the residents and answered questions on topics ranging from gang activity to trash discarded on the sides of streets to acceptable noise levels at night. Throughout the meeting, the officers stressed the importance of two-way communication between citizens and police officers as an effective deterrent to crime.

Jamestown High School Student Resource Officer Ian DeModna said he started recently working a case that made “the hair on my neck go up.” He said he received reports of children with guns and drugs who were threatening anyone who wanted to talk to the police. DeModna asked the people at the meeting to be proactive and contact police to talk about problems.

“You can react all day long to problems, but if you don’t get in front of them, if you don’t reach out and put yourself in front of that community, we’re not going to be able to resolve that problem,” DeModna said.

He said if gang members or other people stop someone from talking to the police then they have benefited. Several people went to the Williamsburg-James City County Courthouse last week, he said, to try to stop someone from testifying.

“Apparently the intimidation has been happening for a while,” DeModna said.

The officers encouraged parents to monitor their children’s social media activities and artwork for any imagery or signs of trouble. They also asked for residents to document any potentially gang-related graffiti they find to aid investigating officers. An anonymous tip line is available at 259-5176 for anyone who wants to share information with the police.

DeModna said police are looking at directed patrols to increase police presence in Grove. He recommended churches and community centers come together to give children and teens something to do. He also suggested youth programs, such as a community cleanup, the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, Cub Scouts and evening sports.

Kelly Saponaro, the department’s crime prevention officer for Grove, encouraged more neighborhoods to come together and form neighborhood watches. She recommended people use services from the department, such as a program where officers will come check on homes when the owners are out of town or come to a home to analyze it for possible security risks. She also brought up the Citizens Police Academy, a 14-week class the department offers to citizens covering a range of topics related to law enforcement. A woman who had attended the academy said it was a valuable experience for her.

How to Contact JCC Police:

In an emergency: 911
Non-emergency line: 253-1800
Anonymous tip line: 259-5176

Citizens who turned out brought up several issues. Several people who spoke thanked the police for the job they do, with a few encouraging residents to reach out to officers more to open the lines of communication.

One man recommended the county install cameras. He asked for the James City County Board of Supervisors to fund a system of cameras to see “every car, everybody coming in and out of this county.” He said that system would be the best way to protect county residents.

Another man said Whiting Avenue in Grove is turning into a “dump,” with people dropping mattresses, garbage and appliances on the sides of the road. Saporano asked residents to pay attention for license plate numbers as that greatly aids police in investigating crimes like that.

When asked if assistance is available to remove gang graffiti, an officer said no, though he noted the state or county will come out and remove it if it is not dealt with by the property owner.

RAIDS Online:

The officers mentioned several tools and programs available for citizens, including RAIDS Online. The James City County Police Department uses RAIDS Online, a crime mapping app allowing the public to see where police have taken reports and responded to calls. The program allows users to input specific addresses in the county as well as date ranges and more. Visit RAIDS Online by clicking here.

One woman asked how police handle the mentally ill. Rinehimer mentioned the Crisis Intervention Team training that many officers in the department have undergone. That program is an intensive, weeklong course offering police and other first responders skills to deal with mentally ill people they encounter in the course of their duties. He said he wants to eventually have all of the officers in the department trained in CIT.

A few residents asked questions about the police department. One pointed at each officer and said he would trust them but then said, “The rest of them? Nope.”

“The vast majority of the officers who work in this department are just like us,” Rinehimer said. “They’re all regular people. If you ever feel like your rights are violated, or you’re treated disrespectfully on a traffic stop, you call me and that will stop. Period.”

A black man in the audience said none of the seven to 10 officers in the room — who were all white — looked like him. He said young people need to see officers who look like them and that for the last 10 or 15 years he has not seen anyone who looks like us.

Rinehimer said the department tries hard to hire a diverse pool of officers and that black officers are included in the department.

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Posted by on February 11, 2014. Filed under James City Govt,Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

4 Responses to JCC Police: Potential Gang Activity at School, Threats to Witnesses Prompts Grove Community Meeting

  1. annabelle ambrosio Reply

    February 11, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    People have to get over this black/white issue. The police, regardless of whether they’re black, white or orange are here to fight crime and that goes for all people. If a person is guilty of crime, then they are guilty, regardless of the color. If they are innocent then they are innocent.
    The politicians need to get involved. The churches need to help. People cannot be intimidated by drug pushers or anyone else. It needs to be stopped right away and the politicians have a big responsibility here. They can nip it in the bud.

  2. Confused Reply

    February 11, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Were the children with guns and drugs who were threatening people doing so in the community or at Jamestown High School? The title implies at school, the body of the article implies otherwise. Kudos to the police and the members of the community who were present for being proactive in either case. But if there were instances on school grounds wouldn’t the WJCC schools become involved as well? I understand the JHS Resource Officer was addressing the issue but it sounds as if he was reporting on an issue in the community, not a school issue. If it is a school issue, what is the protocol for alerting parents and students?

  3. Godspeed974 Reply

    February 11, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    This meeting was more than just a transfer of information it was an entire stuffed room full of people who love their community and care. It was neighbors, families, friends…I attended the meeting and was very encouraged by the beautiful heart that was more than evident!

    Grove Christian Outreach center has already stepped up and will do a community clean up day Mar 22nd 9-5 all are welcome to help!

    Together we can make an impact and bless the next generation with values, integrity and love that is what I saw the Grove community doing last night and I commend them!

  4. enos Reply

    February 11, 2014 at 9:02 am

    Wow! Gangs, drugs and guns at Jamestown High School. Who would have figured that. It is the “jewel” in WJCC schools. Maybe if the staff at JHS became more proactive instead of trying to hide the problems than this could have been thwarted a little. I guess that waiver was more important than keeping kids and community safe? A top school yeah yeah!

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