When Deputy Specialist George Cumberledge started working in Ashburn Farm at the beginning of May, the Ashburn community became the ninth area in Loudoun County to be served by the Sheriff's Office Community Policing Unit.
"We've been interested in getting a deputy for a while," Laura Plummer, president of the community's Board of Trustees said. "We knew they were looking for one more to place this year and we are excited to have him."
ASHBURN FARM JOINS Sugarland Run, Newberry, Ashburn Village, CountrySide, Pembrooke, South Townhouses, Lovettsville and Round Hill as a community with a dedicated deputy.
Community policing deputies work only in the community they are assigned and have an office in that community. By contrast, a patrol officer can be assigned to an area that includes a community, but also patrols other areas and can not dedicate himself to one community alone.
"Choosing a community is based on population and criminal activities," Kraig Troxell, spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office, said. "We consider the quality-of-life issues. It's not necessarily violent crimes, just things that are affecting residents quality of life."
Plummer said the Ashburn Farm neighborhood watch committee met with the community deputy from Ashburn Village to discuss the benefits of the program.
"You'll never know what you'll prevent just by having the community deputy's car parked in the Ashburn Farm association's parking lot," she said.
Prevention is key to the community deputy program, Troxell said.
"It is the broken-window theory," he said. "The next thing you know it is escalating. We try and address those issues before it gets to that level."
Plummer said the biggest attraction of the community deputy is the officer's ability to form a relationship with the community and the residents.
"He'll get to know them and what they are doing and what is going on," she said.
The immediate response a community deputy can offer was also really important to the residents of Ashburn Farm.
"Our want wasn't in response to anything specific, but in case things do happen, he will be able to handle those things immediately and see the case through the system," Plummer said.
OTHER COMMUNITIES in the county are interested in getting their own deputy to deal with their growing crime and quality-of-life issues.
"The deputies spend a vast majority of their time in your community," Cliff Keirce, president of the Broadlands Board of Directors, said. "They meet the kids, they become familiar. There's a level of trust that builds there."
Keirce said community policing becomes important in HOA-based communities simply because of the community’s size.
"At total build out Broadlands is going to have 10 to 15 thousand residents," he said. "There are smaller towns that have a whole police force."
While the issue of community policing has not been a topic of conversation during meetings in South Riding, board of directors president Stephanie Smith said she understands why people are in favor of the program.
"Residents feel better when there is an increased presence in the community," she said. "It is the notion that the presence in the community would cause people who would take advantage of a crime of opportunity would move elsewhere."
Smith, however, is not concerned about the lack of a community deputy in her growing Dulles South community.
"Our neighborhood watch is very active," she said. "I don't think there is a fear of crime."
DEPUTIES CHOSEN for a community deputy must first apply for a promotion to deputy specialist before moving into the community, but there is no real cost increase for the county from the program.
"The applicants are assessed by a panel and given a supervisor's recommendation," Troxell said. "There is no additional cost except for the promotion and the salary increase."
While communities do not have to meet specific requirements in order to be eligible for a community deputy, each deputy needs a mountain bike so they can survey the trails in the community and office space.
"You want to have that community policing deputy entrenched in that community," Troxell said.
While the communities are not required to pay for the office space or the mountain bike, Ashburn Farm's association donated the money for Cumberledge's bike.
"It's all up front costs to get things started," Plummer said. "We don't pay part of a salary or anything ongoing. The cost is minimal considering the service we'll be getting."