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Police boost patrols in University of Mary Washington’s Eagle Village

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An uptick in crime at the University of Mary Washington’s Eagle Village shopping center has prompted increased patrols and a focus on community policing, according to UMW police.

“We are cognizant of the incidents and are paying a lot of attention to the area,” said acting UMW police Chief Michael Hall. “The campus is open and we are always high in patrol activities, though.”

The shopping center, owned by the UMW Foundation and home to UMW’s upperclass dorm, Eagle Landing, is patrolled by UMW police, Fredericksburg police and the AlliedBarton Securities private security firm.

Fredericksburg police have also increased patrols in the area, said spokeswoman Natatia Bledsoe.

Earlier this month, a 47-year-old man was shot in the chest at the shopping center. Police believe the shooting occurred during a drug transaction.

At some point, the transaction went bad and someone tried to rob the shooting victim. The victim fought back and slashed one of the tires on the suspect’s vehicle before being shot.

In late March, a 34-year-old Stafford County man was stabbed in the leg in what police believe also started as a drug transaction.

Police said a Stafford County man met an unknown man behind the former Wonder Bread building on Powhatan Street to buy narcotics. When the deal went bad, the two got into a fight and the first man was stabbed.

Bledsoe said that in addition to having patrol officers on shift providing extra attention to Eagle Village, the department also has officers working overtime at random hours spending dedicated time in Eagle Village.

These overtime-shift details will continue for another couple weeks, she said, then police will re-evaluate the need and their effectiveness at reducing crime in the area.

Even though the center has been revitalized in recent years, crime has continued to rise.

Bledsoe said the Police Department does not have a definitive answer as to why the number of incidents has risen steadily since 2009, but it is an issue that they are currently evaluating and working to mitigate.

In 2009, the Fredericksburg Police Department responded to 58 incidents in Eagle Village. By 2013, that number had risen to 92. Year to date, there have been 44 incidents so far in 2014, up from 38 this time in 2013. In 2009, there were 29 offenses reported through May.

Hall described UMW’s current patrol of the area as “very heavy” and added that some of the buildings in the center have cameras used to deter crime.

Hall urged students to step up and take part in community policing.

“We are patrolling but we can only do so much,” he said. “Students are our biggest allies. If they see something out of the norm they should call it in.”

He said the department has focused on community support lately, reaching out to students through an adopt-a-residence-hall program and informational events.

“It’s unfortunate in the world we live in that you always have to be conscious of your surroundings,” he said. “But you do.

“Be aware of who is there when you pull up, of the lighting. You shouldn’t have to, but there are criminals out there who will take advantage of the situation.”

Even with the increase in high-profile crime in Eagle Village recently, Hall said he hopes new shops moving in and further revitalization will mitigate crime.

Before, when Eagle Village was known as Park & Shop, he said some storefronts were vacant or not well maintained and the parking lot was poorly lighted.

“Rundown, that breeds crime,” he said. “Now stores are occupied, it looks nice. and you observe more people there.”

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976

lestes@freelancestar.com

BY THE NUMBERS

2009: 58 offenses total, 29 from January–May

2010: 66 total, 19 from January–May

2011: 62 total, 30 from January–May

2012: 71 total, 37 from January–May

2013: 92 total, 38 from January–May

2014: 44 from January–May

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