Engagement of our Community Youth By Purcellville (VA) Police Department

Purcellville logo

Over a ten year period, the Town of Purcellville’s population has more than tripled and the Town has transformed into one of the fastest growing communities in the state of Virginia, with many new residents being young families with children. The Purcellville Police Department saw a need to aggressively refocus some of its projects and priorities towards its youth. So in January of 2006, Chief Darryl Smith and the Department began to reorganize and refocus their operations. They felt the priority was needed due to the following issues:

  • The Town’s youth population increased drastically over the last five years. As a result, the Town has seen a significant increase in the needs of our youth as well as the typical problems that are associated with a growing population of children.
  • Too often, traditional community policing programs focus more on adult programs and do not spend the time focusing on our most valuable assets, which are children and youth.
  • Like in many communities, the children in the Town of Purcellville come from a range of socio-economic backgrounds. Unfortunately, many of these children are “latch-key” kids who spend considerable time at home unsupervised until an adult or parent arrives home from work.
  • The Police Department wanted to be proactive and address many of the traditional problems that tend to occur in communities with large populations of children and youth, such as skateboard nuisance, graffiti, vandalism, drugs and alcohol abuse.
Purcellville Police Department (Photo courtesy of Town of Purcellville)

Purcellville Police Department
(Photo courtesy of Town of Purcellville)

The Police Department quickly took the lead in developing a multitude of programs that engaged our youth, based on the following priorities:

  • The Town’s desire to engage youth from all age groups.
  • The need to ensure the programs are open to all children and youth throughout our community, with primary focus on geographical areas with the greatest need.
  • Create programs to get police officers, Town Council, and staff out into the community in a fun and relaxing environment, resulting  in positive dividends for our community.
  • Create programs that help provide guidance, leadership, and positive messages to our children and youth.
  • Build a working relationship with our children and youth where police are viewed as friends and not someone that you only call during an emergency.

In order to accomplish these goals and objectives, the Purcellville Police Department split up into teams under the leadership of Chief Smith and went about organizing and implementing the following programs:

Basketball Games With Local Youth

The Police Department has hosted four basketball games with police officers, Town Council, and staff playing youth at the local Teen Center. Unfortunately, the police team has seldom won but has had a good time working with the kids on a daily basis, and the positive press coverage from these events has been enormous.

“Welcome Summer Picnic”

To close out each school year, the Police Department partnered with Grace Annex Church to hold a year end school program at the Purcellville East Apartments and Main Street Commons Apartments. This program was open to all children and youth of the Town, with games and rides provided to help celebrate the end of school in a positive and safe environment.

Public Safety Day

The Police Department has hosted a Public Safety Day each year since May of 2006. This program involves a partnership with the Purcellville Volunteer Fire Department and the Purcellville Volunteer Rescue Squad to organize a day long free program, which includes Fire and Rescue demonstrations of emergency equipment, representatives from all levels of state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies as well as bike safety programs. The Department also conducts fingerprinting and other child ID programs, which again, is provided free of charge to the community. This event has been held in one of the public shopping centers and it is estimated that more than 500 people have attended each event.

Informative Town Hall Meetings For Parents

The Police Department hosts a series of three Town Hall meetings each year, which requires children to attend with their parents and deal with such issues as internet safety and gangs in Northern Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. These meetings are hosted at the Town Hall.

Back To School Jam”

The Department partnered with the local Eagles Club and Grace Annex Church to hold a “Back to School Jam.” This program allowed the Police Department, Town Council, and staff to further engage with youth in a safe environment. At these sessions the attending children are given backpacks and school materials free of charge, along with food, fun, and games.

Homework Assistance Program

One of the more exciting and popular programs created by the Department is the Homework Assistance Program. This program began in November of 2006 and has become a very popular program. Police officers, along with volunteers from the community, help children with their homework after school. The success of this program has been enormous and the Department has received a great deal of positive feedback from parents and children. Remarkably, all struggling and failing students have improved their grades. In addition, average performing students made honor roll for the first time. The Department also found a way to work in some exciting trips, such as to our nation’s capitol, Washington, D.C., to visit the National Christmas Tree.

Police Santa Cop Program

The Police Department brought a “Santa Cop” Program to local children. For this program, organized by our Department and heavily funded by the Fraternal Order of Police and business community donations, each child was taken to breakfast with their parents and given $200 to buy Christmas presents for their family and themselves.

Explorer Post Program

The Police Department implemented a Youth Explorer Post Program that involves supervised training exercises and education. The Explorer Post also aids the Town with traffic and crowd control during special events and programs.

Miss Purcellville Police Scholarship Pageant

The Department, with help from the Purcellville Women’s Club, established a scholarship pageant to reward girls for doing positive things in school and the community. Scholarships and gifts were awarded to the top three participants. Participants were scored on community involvement, scholastic achievement, and essays. This program was well received by the community and a huge success with local high school girls.

The initiatives developed and implemented by the Purcellville Police Department have taken the Town of Purcellville to a new level of community engagement. The Town has received many positive comments about these programs from the residential and business community, and the program evaluations have all yielded extremely positive results. The parents whose children have participated in one or more of these programs have all stated that the children have come away with very positive lessons, while having fun in the process. The business community has noted the success of these programs and has continued to step up to help financially support many of them, which results in a minimal impact to our taxpayers.  In addition, all of the local papers have provided heavy coverage of these programs and the positive publicity that the Town and community have received as a result has been enormous.

The Police Barrel Train Ride (on loan from Purcellville Police Department) circled the Eastern Loudoun Station and was continually packed with children who came out with their families to enjoy the gorgeous weather. The Sheriff’s Station located in Sterling Park hosted its first annual open house on an 85 degree day under summer skies and many local residents attended the event. Photo courtesy/ Justin Nash

The Police Barrel Train Ride (on loan from Purcellville Police Department) circled the Eastern Loudoun Station and was continually packed with children who came out with their families to enjoy the gorgeous weather. The Sheriff’s Station located in Sterling Park hosted its first annual open house on an 85 degree day under summer skies and many local residents attended the event. Photo courtesy: Justin Nash

Through these initiatives the officers of the Purcellville Police Department have been closely plugged back into the community. Since the Police Department is the only town department that is on the street 24 hours a day, its officers have proven to be an enormous success as frontline ambassadors—not only keeping the community safe but answering questions and helping the community on a multitude of public and private issues. In a community that is growing very fast, it is so easy to get caught up in a reactive enforcement mode that can effectively take police officers away from proactive programs—this is not happening in the town of Purcellville, Virginia.  Officers are viewed as friends and mentors by the children and youth rather than someone who is only called during emergency or problematic situations.

Overall, the Purcellville Police Department’s engagement of its community youth has been an absolute success, with support at all levels and a recognized improvement in the quality of life of the children and youth. This support has come from the Town Council, business community, school system, neighboring law enforcement agencies, and the faith-based and non-profit organizations within the community. The programs have been so successful that the Police Chief and Department are constantly being pressured to find other ways to add more new programs and expand the current programs to accommodate more youth. This initiative has also received national recognition. In 2009, the program was recognized as a semi-finalist in the International Association of Chiefs of Police/Motorola Weber Seavey Award for Quality in Law Enforcement.

-Chief Darryl Smith,
Purcellville Police Department

In collaboration with
Albert Pearsall
Senior Policy Analyst
COPS Office

Back to top

Combating Identity Theft | Public Safety App | Volunteerism and Public Safety | Stalking in the Workplace | Purcellville (VA) Police Department | Macon (GA) Police Department