Photos Dale Stockton
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At first glance, Leesburg (Va.) Police Department (LPD) looks like Anytown (U.S.A.) PD. Look just a little closer, however, and you’ll see a department that’s proactively looking for opportunities to tackle crime and finding interesting technology solutions along the way. LPD has been providing public safety services since 1758, certainly one of the oldest in the country. The department has 82 officers and just over 100 total employees to serve a community of approximately 44,000 people across an area of 12 square-miles. Located about one hour northwest from downtown Washington, D.C., the community is primarily residential and retail.
History & Its Future
Considering the history and community characteristics of Leesburg, you might expect the PD to be a status-quo organization. However, Leesburg has stepped solidly into a new era of policing with an attitude that well-thought-out technology programs can serve as effective force multipliers. That approach, combined with an engaging social media effort to involve the citizenry, has helped Leesburg maintain a high level of functionality in spite of tight budget times.
“I believe that a 21st century law enforcement agency has to embrace technology in order to maximize its scarce resources,” Chief Joseph Price says. “Our technology plan focuses on the principles of intelligence-led policing combined with a robust social media effort that strengthens community partnerships, prevents crime and improves community safety.”
Leesburg patrol officers work 12-hour shifts which begin at 0700 or 1900 HRS with a tailored response unit that provides a degree of overlap, but which flexes hours as needed. Patrol is augmented by K-9 units, motor officers, bike patrol and school resource personnel.
Despite its deep history, LPD leverages the Internet and social media avenues exceedingly well. The department maintains a web site with RSS feeds, generates YouTube videos, has regular Twitter feeds and boasts an attractive and active Facebook page. To keep their community informed they use Reverse911, Listserve and AlertLoudoun. The latter is used the most frequently and can receive posts from cell phones so officers can update from the field. This approach allows the public to be signed up for categorized alerts regarding traffic, weather events, police activity, school closings, etc.
LPD also leverages the Internet to allow citizens to get the latest information via CrimeReports.com and for citizens to share information via a service called TipSoft. This app lets citizens provide timely tips regarding things they have seen on CrimeReports and do so anonymously if they wish.
Perhaps the most intriguing effort underway at LPD is their evaluation of a new product called Digital Barriers. This product allows real-time streaming from a variety of video sources (including in-car video) while consuming very small amounts of bandwidth. The practical application is for in-car video as well as other video like security cameras to be monitored remotely with a simple Internet connection. The department is working with the vendor in terms of product feedback and determining whether this is a practical tool for law enforcement. Initial indicators have been positive.
For a more traditional sort of mobility, LPD uses a variety of vehicles. For general patrol work, the department is evaluating both the 2012 Chevrolet Caprice and Impala, with two of each on the road. For supervisor vehicles, the agency uses 2012 Ford Interceptor Utility SUV with four-wheel drive capability. The marked units are white with an attractive graphic that was custom designed by one of the Leesburg officers.
Patrol officers carry a Glock 22 with a weapon-mounted light. Duty gear consists of a lightweight synthetic Gould Goodrich duty belt paired with a Safariland safety retention holster. The Gould Goodrich rig was originally obtained for bike patrol use but worked out so well that it was issued to all patrol officers. The issued baton is an ASP collapsible weighted for patrol usage. Certified officers use a Taser X26 with TaserCam and the department uses Vexor OC, which is nonflammable.
The real story in Leesburg isn’t so much what they have done, but what they continue to do. The department continually looks for new ways to leverage technology to better serve their community and target crime more effectively. For instance, as this was being written, LPD was taking delivery of low-cost GPS devices that will be used to address retail theft, a major problem for the town. They’re combining that effort with carefully analyzed theft data to target the most serious crooks.
Bottom line: Leesburg isn’t only a great department with a can-do attitude: They also partner with their community through social media and identify emerging technology so they can target crime in a manner that’s both cost and resource effective.
Special thanks to LPD Lt. Carl Maupin for his assistance.