Fluvanna crime

Five counties, including Fluvanna, funnel their prisoners into the Central Virginia Regional Jail in Orange County.  None of the other counties came close to seeing a crime decrease like Fluvanna’s, he said.  In the same time span, Madison’s crime decreased by 3 percent and Greene’s decreased by less than 1 percent.  Orange, on the other hand, saw a 22 percent increase in crime, and Louisa faced a 61 percent crime increase.

“I’m really excited about that [crime decline],” Washington said, declaring that his office is working hard to keep crime down.  “But that puts a lot of stress on the staff,” he cautioned, “making them go out and be visible, interact with the public, doing everything we can to solve crime.”

Specifically, Fluvanna saw a decrease in larcenies, which were down by 28 percent, and in weapons law violations, which were down by 33 percent.  Vandalism and destruction incidents decreased by 17 percent and drug offenses by 14 percent.

On the flip side, breaking and entering and burglaries were up by 19 percent, and assaults by 4 percent.  Sex offenses flew up by 36 percent, but Washington kept a sense of perspective.  “We went from 11 incidents to 15,” he clarified, noting that percentages can be misleading without hard numbers attached.  Fraud and embezzlement increased by 20 percent, as well.  “We’re going to see an even higher increase as time goes by,” Washington predicted.  “That’s the trend.  People use technology, the internet, to do more business – criminals have gotten smart.”


Overall, Washington expressed pleasure with Fluvanna’s 13 percent crime decrease, and emphasized that budget plays a role in his office.  “Funds and people drive this,” he noted.  “It takes money to educate people, to pay overtime.  Technology is required, too, in investigations.  Staffing as a whole is an issue.  The more visible officers can be, hopefully the fewer crimes will take place.”

The sheriff gave supervisors a run-down of all the various responsibilities belonging to his office.  Unlike some sheriff’s offices and police agencies with fewer duties, Washington’s office is responsible for E911 dispatch and all non-emergency calls, patrol, criminal investigations, records, animal control, court security and transportation of prisoners, and civil process.  Overall, the department has 45 active personnel.

The “starting place for everything” at the sheriff’s office is dispatch, Washington said.  Dispatchers answer 911 calls and serve as the receptionist hub for the office as a whole.  Say an officer stops a vehicle and, while running the driver’s license, discovers that the driver is wanted in Fluvanna or another county.  The officer can’t simply bring the driver in because of the possibility of error within the computer system.  Rather, the officer must call dispatch who then must confirm with the originating agency that the driver is, in fact, wanted.  Then the dispatcher must have everything ready for processing the driver when the officer returns.

In addition to these responsibilities, dispatchers also enter all sorts of information into the statewide and national computer systems, such as weapons reports, property, missing persons, and wanted persons.  “Dispatchers have 911 lines ringing, admin lines ringing, deputies asking for service, fire and rescue asking for service,” Washington elaborated.  “The skill of multitasking and attention to detail is crucial in this job.”

As the county has grown, call volume and administrative work has increased over the years.  And staffing a 24-hour operation comes with many challenges, including training, vacations, holidays, sick leave, and family medical leave.  “Someone has to be placed,” Washington stated.  “Having an adequate number of people on a shift enhances your ability to have more adequate and expedited services to fire and rescue and other needs.”

The patrol division, on the other hand, is the most visible to citizens.  “They are outside, traveling the county,” Washington said.  Fluvanna is divided into three sectors with, ideally, one patrol officer in each sector at any given time.  However, in reality, only two to three patrol officers are on duty at one time, due to the same factors that affect dispatch staffing.  “All it takes is one arrest and you have one deputy trying to run the county by himself,” Washington declared.

“Proactive policing,” or placing patrol officers in visible locations around the county, really does deter crime, Washington stated.  But patrol officers have other duties, too, such as serving warrants.  In 2013 deputies served 2,141 warrants, achieving a 98 percent serve rate on criminal warrants.  They also answer calls for service for accidents, traffic issues, domestic-related calls, and mental health calls, as well as assisting with locating missing children and handling civil complaints, such as trespassing.  They even have to deal with cows in the road.  “You name it, that division gets it,” Washington cracked.


The goal of the patrol officer is to get criminals off the streets, Washington explained, and then to get themselves back onto the streets.  At this point the investigations division often takes over.  “The investigators move to the next level in the agency specifically to work to solve crimes that are time-consuming, that patrol officers don’t have the time to invest in,” Washington said.  These officers also oversee the school resource officer and the narcotics investigator.

Not only does the sheriff’s department bring offenders off the street, but it also must provide security for where those offenders are tried – the courthouse – and their transportation there and back.  “The law requires that whenever court is in session, the sheriff’s office is responsible for securing the courthouse,” Washington explained.  “We have court typically four days a week.  We need people to man the entry of the courthouse and the courtrooms, and to ensure the safety of the judges and staff that are trying the cases.  They have to search the courthouse to make sure people aren’t hiding weapons.”  Just because Fluvanna is “in the country,” Washington warned, doesn’t mean that his officers can relax.  “We need to make sure we stay vigilant.  We aren’t any less vulnerable.”

The judicial affairs division is also responsible for serving and processing civil papers – almost 7,000 in 2013.  “The officer has to log all of those papers into the system, to show that they received it,” Washington stated.  “Then the officer has to go out and attempt service for every single piece of paper.  Next they bring it back for finalization, to show in the system what was done with that paper.  People balk at a $3,000 or $4,000 postage budget, but all of those papers need to go in envelopes and be mailed back.”

In order to better serve the county, the sheriff is asking for three more patrol officers and the funds to promote two existing offers to the role of sergeant.  At this Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch spoke up, stating that, because of the nature of shift work, adding the deputies Washington has requested would still only cover one additional day in the week.  “The difference between 27 deputies [as Fluvanna has] and 34 [as comparable county Goochland has] is rather huge,”

Supervisors will decide later whether to approve the funds for the additional personnel.  “People in Fluvanna get a tremendous amount of services for what they’re paying,” Washington affirmed.  “A 13 percent decrease in crime for not much in taxes.  The public is getting a lot of bang for their buck.”

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