In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, Sully District police officers held a virtual town hall meeting last Tuesday, April 7, to reassure local residents that they’re still in good hands.
“Our service hasn’t changed,” said Capt. Todd Billeb, commander of the Sully District Station. “Our commitment to the public is unwavering.”
Joining in via Zoom, Fairfax County Police Chief Ed Roessler said the key word to get through these unsetting times is “patience. Our lives around the world have been disrupted, and people have lost loved ones. And I continue to pray for everyone that we survive this.”
Nevertheless, he said, “We are one Team Fairfax – and that includes the community. So check on your neighbors and, as the weather gets good, be disciplined in social distancing. Otherwise, we’re putting each other at risk – because [this virus] is serious and deadly.”
Then Ramona Carroll, with Fairfax County’s Neighborhood and Community Services, reminded people that “Social distancing also means no large gatherings at places of worship or at home.”
“The best information to go by, to keep yourself safe, is the Fairfax County Health Department,” said Lt. Josh Laitinen, Sully’s assistant station commander. And [Board of Supervisors Chairman] Jeff McKay puts out daily updates, as does the county government.”
He said the police department has multiple platforms to inform the public about what’s going on. “You can also follow our e blog or Nextdoor,” said Laitinen. “And see our Twitter account for the most current and breaking news – for example, a missing person.”
IN RESPONSE to the virus, he said, the police department is social distancing, compartmentalizing officers, making sure anyone sick stays home, and doing first-responder testing. Incident Support Services keeps them physically and mentally healthy, and officers now attend roll call via Zoom, instead of being together in the same room.
However, said Laitinen, “We’re still providing the highest level of police service possible and are being highly visible in the community. We have message boards on the highways with hand-washing and social-distancing messages. And officers are taking reports about crimes online and over the phone to prevent face-to-face contact. That way, we’re also putting more officers on the street.”
“Our primary focus is the safety of the community and our own personnel,” he continued. “We have short- and long-term plans. And if we’re down a certain number of personnel, we’re prepared to adjust our resources accordingly. The police department monitors how many gloves and masks we use daily, so we won’t run out.”
Laitinen said the detectives, neighborhood patrol officers and school resource officers (SROs) are also adding to the increased public police presence, while staying away from each other at the station. He added that, “Having officers visible in the community reassures people that we’re still here.”
He also noted that the station’s calls for service decreased in the past four months. And with the public urged to stay home, crimes, traffic and crashes have also gone down. But, he said, “Officers are still making arrests to keep the criminal element at bay.”
The station’s Citizens Advisory Committee meetings will resume in May but will probably be held earlier than the usual 7 p.m. and on a Zoom-like platform.
COMMUNITY OUTREACH Officer Meg Hawkins will work on a program for children via Zoom, and Crime Prevention Officer Sabrina Ruck will hold neighborhood watch and HOA meetings via Zoom.
“We’ve gotten a number of food donations from the community, and that really helps the officers’ morale, as do the cards and letters we’ve received,” said Laitinen. “We’re grateful to have such a supportive community.”
Agreeing, Billeb said, “The community outreach has been phenomenal, and the officers really appreciate it.”