Police-community relations in Danville, Virginia, are getting a new look during the next month with the opening of a new police headquarters that the city is naming “1 Community Way.” The name and function of the new building reflects the city’s effort to work collaboratively with residents on public safety.
Danville, a 2020 All-America City, asked for public input for names for the new headquarters and received many suggestions. Police Captain Richard Chivvis said the name “1 Community Way” was chosen so that Danville residents understand that community focus is a priority for the police department, and that this focus starts as soon as any resident steps foot on the property. The new building has an outdoor community area for civic engagement as well as a large community room and other multipurpose rooms to serve the community as efficiently as possible. The police department also has a dedicated community and youth engagement unit, which is focused on areas like crime prevention, community education, youth and community engagement, and blight & nuisance abatement.
In addition to the new police headquarters, Danville opened a new police-led community center called the PEACE community center in December of 2021. This center, which was created by closing a police precinct office that was no longer needed, is focused on giving teens a safe place to work on homework or simply relax, though education is a central focus of the center and tutoring is available several days per week.
Danville’s mayor cites projects like these when noting the city’s successes in both public safety and social justice. In order to reduce violent crime in their city, Danville police have started going door-to-door in areas where a crime was committed in order to comfort citizens and also gather information about what happened. Additionally, a program focused on giving at-risk youth jobs has provided employment to over 100 individuals. These interventions have contributed to the reduction in homicides in the area, down from 15 annually to only a single one so far in 2022.
The city has also employed community engagement activities following some very difficult moments, notably in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. When residents marched for George Floyd, the police chief and other officers joined in the march, which helped diffuse some of the tension. The city also worked to minimize the influence of outside interests that entered the city during this period.
During a prior period, following the violence involving Black victims nationally in 2015, the city removed a confederate memorial, sparking local controversy. According to Mayor Jones there was a moment when it looked like a violent clash might occur between some youth protestors and confederate sympathizers, but two older gentlemen of different races showed up and helped diffuse the situation and avoid violence. Without the amount of attention that Danville has given to community engagement and dialogue regarding tough issues, it’s likely that this situation could have ended much less happily.