We stand together. That’s the main message Col. David R. Hines, sheriff of Hanover County, has for citizens in the wake of recent tragedies.
The county has experienced five homicides since December, the most recent occurring on Monday, Jan. 30.
Hines’ comment stemmed from messages he has received in the two months since the first incident took place.
“We stand together to comfort the families and friends of the victims. We stand together to assist law enforcement and their efforts,” the sheriff said of the response from the community. “We are a community of caring, compassionate individuals that at a time of need come together.”
Calling the “we stand together” position the strongest message, Hines added, “The second message that I hope has been heard loud and clear by those individuals that would come to Hanover to victimize our citizens is you will be arrested; you will be prosecuted.”
“We are a Sheriff’s Office of dedicated, well trained professionals that do not tire easily. Each person here carries my philosophy and that is a quick arrest is a sure way to prevent crime.”
Last Thursday, the sheriff addressed the tragedies experienced in his county over the past two months. Though unrelated, the four incidents – five homicides and a suicide tied to two of the murders – Hines said, “They’re still tragedies that affect the community. They affect the loved ones of the victims, the friends and families and the community that they live in.”
He said the impact on Hanover is because the county is “a community of caring and compassionate human beings that truly have the same goals in mind. And that is safe communities, safe schools, parents that love their children, grandparents that love their grandchildren – a true sense of wanting all young people to make good decisions.”
Hanover “also is a community that respects its law enforcement, all of its public safety. The community has that sense that their law enforcement truly does belong to them.”
The Sheriff’s Office operates with a motto of “ ’Continuing to be a part of, not apart from, the community’ and we practice that every day, and,” Hines said, “the citizens know that.”
He also said that the cooperation between the community and his office is evident every day as they serve together to prevent crime.
Dispelling any negative remarks that have been posted on various Internet sites, the sheriff said, “This is one of the safest communities in the Richmond metropolitan area, and it’s because of the relationships that have been developed with public safety, schools and the community – everyone sharing the same goal.”
“Our officers are out there every day and, as much as we want to prevent every crime and as much as the community wants us to prevent every crime, not all crimes are prevented. We work diligently on prevention efforts. But when a crime is committed, part of our prevention philosophy – and it’s my philosophy as the sheriff and it’s been adopted by the men and women of this department – is a speedy arrest and swift prosecution., which prevents further crimes from being committed.”
Resolution to the four separate incidents came at a rapid pace with the Sheriff’s Office. While Hines attributed the success to his office, he also was quick to say that “We didn’t do it alone. We did it with the cooperation of the community and other agencies. As the sheriff, I don’t know how to truly express to the public my gratitude for their assistance in all of this.”
He then praised the efforts of the people his office serves. “Because of the times, I don’t know that the public recognizes how much they do for their law enforcement. We live in a community where someone notices something is a little awry and they call their Sheriff’s Office. And then it’s up to law enforcement to respond. I believe our agency responded extremely professionally, extremely quickly, very diligently.”
“Sometimes,” he continued, “our response and our actions are the only voice that the victims have, and we have to speak for them and that is to bring those that are responsible to a successful prosecution.”
Community involvement, Hines said, is a significant part of his office’s success rate. “We’re involved in our community, but our involvement is with not just the community leaders or the residents in the community, there’s a broader community that we work with every day. That broader community is the schools that we work with through our School Resource Officer Program.” Another program in the school is DARE, “where we are teaching young people at such an early age to try to help them to make good decisions.”
Help extends a broad spectrum, the sheriff said. “We work with not only the commonwealth’s attorney’s office for prosecution but our officers work almost every day with the mental health community, trying to find help for those that are brought to our attention.”
To do what they can in the area of domestic violence, the Sheriff’s Office works with Hanover Safe Place and domestic violence task forces.
Tending to the community’s public safety needs is paramount to the operations of the 24/7 department. “We’ve expanded our Neighborhood Watch Program,” Hines said. They also have increased the Business Watch Program in an effort to reach out to the business community. “We’ve also just started a new program of Crime Watch for civic organizations, where we will be able to put information out to the Rotary clubs, the Ruritans, the Lions Club. The better we can equip our citizens with good preventive measures, the better we can help them.”
Hines doesn’t use the term “community policing agency” lightly. “It is truly a philosophy here. We still work with our senior citizens that need help through our Adopt-a-Senior Program.”
His office spearheads a Motorist Assistance Program that, not only helps motorists, “they help us on our property watches for our citizens that may be out of town.”
Hines said his office has “increased our volunteers dramatically over the past two years to include 10 chaplains.” Each of the chaplains, he said, has played a part in all of these tragedies. “They played a part in supporting the families, supporting the communities in their own congregations and supporting the men and women of this office that deal with those tragedies.”
As Hines said, Hanover County’s strength is that theme of “We stand together.”