The night watchmen: Fort Belvoir Police Department's middle shift keeps community safe after hours
September 13, 2013
At 5:30 p.m., the Fort Belvoir Police Department's night shift gathers for roll call before heading out on the road. Their plan for the next 12 hours is to protect the community by being very visible to everyone on post.
Known as the "middle shift" within the police department, this mix of civilian police officers and Military Police aims to build a reputation for being constantly available, through a user-friendly policing style involving more walking patrols and interaction at the gates.
"We usually have more time on nights to patrol, to do some proactive types of things," said Lt. Scott Crawford, civilian police officer and watch commander for the middle shift. This is because "our calls for service usually aren't as heavy as they are on day shift, because it's a pretty transient population."
During the evening, Fort Belvoir police often walk around the Exchange, bowling area, skate park and housing areas -- anywhere that there are people.
"Police presence is a lot in police work," said Sgt. Nicholas Snook, 212th Military Police Detachment, who has worked middle shift for the past six months. "It shows that we care. It shows that we're out to help the population here on Fort Belvoir."
During his shift, Snook normally walks around some of The Villages at Belvoir, looking for anything out of the ordinary and talking with residents. Children often wave and say hello, and adults sometimes approach him to chat, ask questions or report suspicious activity.
"We try to get out with the public as much as we can," he said. "That way, they trust us."
Throughout the night, the middle shift also has a strong presence on the roads, looking for traffic violations and drivers under the influence of alcohol.
"Obviously, we want to get those people off the road. We could be keeping an accident off the street later on in the night," Snook said.
With fewer cars on the road, the middle shift also has the opportunity to monitor more drivers, make sure they aren't posing a hazard to others, and remind them of traffic rules on post.
"We're able to go out and do community-oriented policing," said Brian Thomas, civilian patrol officer on the middle shift, who has also worked for the FBPD as an MP. "Our purpose when we're on the road is to help people, primarily, with a focus on making sure people obey the law. That's why we'll do traffic stops -- for safety purposes."
The middle shift also interacts more with people coming and going to post at Pence Gate, since all other gates on the installation close at 9 p.m.
"You're able to build a rapport with people at the gate," Snook said. "This is what mid-shift takes a lot of pride in, because we're able to check a lot of vehicles coming through before something happens on post."
It's not uncommon to see a K-9 unit at the gate at night, looking for drugs, bombs and suspicious people, Snook added.
"The more cops you see out here, there's less chance of anything happening," Snook said.
The Fort Belvoir Police Department phone number is (703) 806-3106.
For more information on the Fort Belvoir Police Department, visit https://www.belvoir.army.mil/des/lawenforcement.asp.