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Alexandria police chief says long overdue overhaul of department ‘sectors’ is coming next year

Police investigating a shooting in the Andrew Adkins development (staff photo by James Cullum)

At a meeting with the City Council yesterday, city leaders joked that the last time the Alexandria Police Department revisited the ‘sectors’ map that helps shape policing, the current Commonwealth Attorney and Sheriff were still in high school and the Potomac Yard neighborhood didn’t exist yet.

But behind that joke about the outdated map were real frustrations that the Alexandria Police Department (APD) follows a sector map that’s decades out of date.

A presentation (item 5) to the Council broke down incidents like “shots fired” by sectors that, as discussed in another story today, lumps the dense and highly populated neighborhoods across the West End into one immense Sector 3 while Old Town is Sector 1 and Del Ray, Rosemont and Arlandria are all part of Sector 2.

City Council member John Chapman argued that the sector map was so general and vague that it provided no useful information for knowing where crime occurs.

Alexandria Police Department’s sector map (image via City of Alexandria)

Alexandria Police Chief Don Hayes said APD is currently starting a process to study demographics and density to reassess how APD handles its patrol beats and more.

“We are in the process, with the approval of the manager, of doing a staffing study, which is going to include a beat study,” Hayes said. “[We’re] looking at demographics, density… When all is said and done, we’ll have the information we need to restructure our beats, because our beats haven’t been restructured in years and we’ve head a lot of development in the city.”

Hayes didn’t have the exact year that marked the last time APD reviewed its sector map, but said Potomac Yard didn’t exist as a neighborhood at the time.

“We’re getting all that done this year,” Hayes said. “The study should be done in April.”

APD leadership came under fire from City Council members for taking so long to get the study off the ground.

“I know we were up here joking about it, but honestly, it’s not really acceptable,” said City Council member Canek Aguirre. “I don’t want to be up here [being] overly grouchy, but I remember talking about this six to eight years ago with Chief Brown. I’m very frustrated we’re at this point and haven’t done it.”

When a new map does come forward, Vice Mayor Amy Jackson said it would be useful to see the monolithic Sector 3 broken up into smaller sections to help address problems in specific neighborhoods.

“I’m assuming the thing about the beats is they’re spread out into three sectors right now,” Jackson said. “When we start dissecting the West End into different sectors, this also goes to staffing and retaining, which also goes into all the neighborhoods and making people feel safe.”

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