Diaspora

In response to residents' concerns, Warrenton police step up patrols in Haiti Street neighborhood – Fauquier Times

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Sunny. High 84F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph..
A few clouds. Low 64F. Winds light and variable.
Updated: September 21, 2022 @ 12:48 pm
The Warrenton Police Department carried out focused enforcement on Haiti Street after two shootings.
In the summer of 2020, Warrenton Police Chief held focus groups to get input from residents about community policing. One of the group sessions was held with residents of Haiti Street.

The Warrenton Police Department carried out focused enforcement on Haiti Street after two shootings.
The Warrenton Police Department and Virginia State Police carried out temporary “focused enforcement” as part of a larger strategy to address quality of life in the historically Black Haiti Street neighborhood after a pair of shootings a week apart in August. Several residents expressed concerns about the gunfire and neighborhood safety at the Warrenton Town Council meeting Sept 13.
Law enforcement, Fauquier Habitat for Humanity representatives and area residents met in mid-August and created a plan that included increasing the police presence in the area during two long weekends, Sept. 8 to 10 and again Sept. 15 to 17. During the first weekend, police made six arrests, mainly for nuisance offenses such as being drunk in public and made 15 traffic stops. During the second weekend, police arrested one person for being drunk in public and issued 20 tickets or warnings for traffic offenses.
In the summer of 2020, Warrenton Police Chief held focus groups to get input from residents about community policing. One of the group sessions was held with residents of Haiti Street.
“As a result of the partnership with the stakeholders, we were able to address these issues quickly,” Police Chief Michael Kochis said. Police will continue to partner with residents to address any ongoing issues, he said.
“The residents were very clear,” Kochis said. “They want their community to be policed; they just don’t want to be overpoliced,” he said. “Haiti Street is not only a good community,” Kochis said, “It’s a great community. Those residents are just as engaged as in Gold Cup or any other community in Warrenton.”
The increased police presence came after two incidents in which shots were fired but no one was injured. A man from the Free State area west of Warrenton, Deandre Burke, 20, allegedly fired a gun from a vehicle after a “verbal altercation” with another individual in the neighborhood. A second incident involving gunfire happened a week earlier – again involving a person from outside the neighborhood — but no charges have been filed in that case yet, and no additional information is available.
Kochis does not remember any other gunshots fired in the Haiti Street neighborhood in the two-plus years he has been chief of police. So, residents were shocked when two people from outside the neighborhood shot at someone in the middle of the street in broad daylight.
No evidence exists of an overall increase in crime, however.
Over the past year, the police department logged 800 focused patrols in the neighborhood. Kochis explained a focused patrol means that officers went to Haiti Street and got out of their cars to check the street. He said that’s a lot of work for a department with 29 officers, but worth it because residents wanted community policing.
He added that the recent focused enforcement is paying off. During the past two weeks, police received only one call for service, and that involved a domestic dispute. By comparison, police received 78 calls to the police for service in July and 35 in August.
Darryl Neher, CEO of Fauquier Habitat for Humanity, told council members that some Warrenton residents look down on Haiti Street, referring to it as “that neighborhood” on social media and calling it a place where a shooting is no surprise. “We have all heard ‘that neighborhood,’” Neher said.
”Fauquier Habitat has worked at Haiti Street for the past five years on neighborhood revitalization work,” Neher said. “We’re building on Haiti Street. We’re investing in Haiti Street.
“That neighborhood is overwhelmingly filled with people and families who want the same thing as the individuals sitting in this room today, a safe and affordable and quality place to live,” he told the council. Habit for Humanity has four affordable homes finished or nearly finished, with lots for 10 more.
“What I’m asking everyone here today is learn about this historically African American neighborhood that is significant to Warrenton,” Neher said. “It is not that neighborhood. It is part of the town’s fabric.
“To me it’s a shame that you have to pay a mortgage, or you pay rent, and your kids can’t even go outside, so it makes me feel like those kids are in jail.”
Melissa Carter
Linneka Akbar is one of the people waiting for a Habitat home in Haiti Street. She told the council she has been part of the community for 27 years, graduating from Taylor Middle School and Fauquier High School. “I love the atmosphere in Warrenton,” she said. “I always talk about how it’s a great place to live.
“So, my point was just to come here and say I just want to be able to move onto that street and not have to worry about my son getting off the bus or my son coming home and seeing a lot of that bad activity,” Akbar said.
Melissa Carter also will move into a Habitat for Humanity house. “Everybody looks at it like it’s that street,” she said. It doesn’t help that the streets don’t get swept regularly, parked cars never move and sidewalks are missing, she said. “To me it’s a shame that you have to pay a mortgage, or you pay rent, and your kids can’t even go outside, so it makes me feel like those kids are in jail,” she said.
“I am willing to work and do whatever needs to be done so that my kids can feel safe when they go to get on that school bus to go to school or come from school.”
Reach Colleen LaMay at clamay@fauquier.com
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