Friday, July 1, 2022

In wake of Virginia Beach mass shooting, localities on the Peninsula assess security

Twelve people were shot and killed in Building 2 of the Virginia Beach Municipal Center Friday, May 31, 2019. (Melanie Occhiuzzo/WYDaily)
Twelve people were shot and killed in Building 2 of the Virginia Beach Municipal Center Friday, May 31, 2019. (Melanie Occhiuzzo/WYDaily)

In the wake of the shooting in Virginia Beach Friday, some localities are assessing the level of protection in place through security measures in their own public buildings.

“If I had an easy way to ensure it would never happen here, that’s what I would like,” said Scott Stevens, county administrator for James City County. “But I don’t think that exists.”

On Friday evening, an employee of the Virginia Beach public works department, DeWayne Craddock, opened fire in the city’s Municipal Building, killing 12 people. Earlier that day Craddock submitted his resignation.

James City County

Since then, Stevens said the county has taken extra security measures to protect employees and guests within the building, such as adding more police officers and discussing with current employees how to address safety concerns.

 “Often the people sitting in the place day in and day out who know the ebb and flow might know best where security and safety can be approved,” Stevens said.

Previous to the events on Friday, Stevens said the county offered active shooter training courses to employees, although not all of them took the course. In the future, Stevens said he expects more to be offered but there isn’t a set decision currently on when or where those will be.

But Stevens added that another important reminder regarding safety for employees is just to create a community of support. Stevens said he didn’t know if the shooter’s motives came out of a lack of support, but in all workplaces, not just city spaces, coworkers should be vigilant and supportive of others when they might be in a time of need.

York County

While some localities plan to add security measures, others do not.

“We have security in the courthouse, however, in the other county buildings, in public access, we do not intend on adding additional security measures at this point,” said Capt. Troy Lyons, spokesman for the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office.

Lyons also noted the department will not add anything to restrict the public’s access to city buildings.

Gail Whittaker, the city’s spokeswoman, said in a text message, prior to the “horrific event in Virginia Beach” the city had already been working on active shooter drills with the YPSO and the fire department have audited several, if not all, buildings in terms of security.

She declined to share more information about the security measures in order to protect the integrity of the program and added the city would continue to evaluate their security needs.

Williamsburg

In response to Friday’s shooting, Mayor Paul Freiling wrote in an email that the city already has some previously-planned security precautions in the works, but declined to specify what they are.

He added City Council will be working with staff to find ways to protect city employees and those doing business in city facilities.

“There are limits, though, because we must be available to the public,” he wrote.

Lee Ann Hartmann, the city’s spokeswoman, declined to go into specifics of the city’s security measures because it could negatively impact the integrity of those measures.

Security for city facilities and buildings is handled on multiple levels. The Information Technology department is tasked with installing or suggesting repairs for various electronic mechanisms in the city.

“In some respects they’re part of our security protocol,” Hartmann said.

(WYDaily/ Courtesy of the Virginia Beach Police Department)

Williamsburg Police are also a critical part of city security. They are called if there are safety incidents or if there is concern about a person’s behavior in a building, Hartmann said.

While the city is looking at ways to increase security, they may not be visible to the public.

At this time, Williamsburg does not have a specific training or drill for city employees for active shooter situations. There are some trainings for other situations, such as fires, Hartmann said.

Williamsburg Police has offered active shooter trainings in public workshops, and “now may be an ideal time” to do a similar training with city employees, she said.

Newport News and Hampton

In Newport News, the security measures the city has in place are “frequently evaluated” and are adapted as needed, Kim Lee, spokeswoman for the city, wrote in an email.

“The safety of our employees and the citizens who visit City buildings and facilities is a high priority for us,” Lee wrote. 

In Hampton, the city had active shooter tabletop drills with the police and fire departments as recently as last week, Mary Bunting, the city manager said.

“Hampton has long taken the issue of workplace safety seriously,” Bunting said. “Many city departments have received training, but we will work to expand that training to all remaining departments in the coming weeks and offer refresher training to those who wish to again review safety procedures.”

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Alexa Doironhttp://wydaily.com
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at alexa@localvoicemedia.com.

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