‘The Block’ in Virginia Beach has new police surveillance cameras

·2 min read

Heading out to the bars on Atlantic Avenue this weekend? Smile, you’re on camera.

The police department recently installed four new surveillance cameras along “The Block” — the area between 20th and 22nd streets where several late-night drinking establishments are clustered.

Virginia Beach police Capt. Harry McBrien, who oversees the precinct that serves the resort area, told the city’s Resort Advisory Commission on Thursday he can pull up the live feed on his cell phone.

Installing the cameras is one of a series of actions the police department is taking to increase safety at the Oceanfront. The measures come after 10 people were shot, two fatally, on March 26 in a chaotic night of violence in and around that Atlantic Avenue stretch.

“More police presence down here is welcomed,” said Stephan Michaels, who owns four properties between 21st and 22nd streets.

Michaels recently offered the space that was formerly occupied by The Boxx bar to the police for a satellite office so that they could be “right in the middle of everything,” he said.

Michaels cleared out old equipment Friday morning and prepared to tear down a wall so that the police can move in by July 1. The space will also be a home base for fire marshals and emergency medical services personnel as well, McBrien, the police captain, said.

Ryan Ross, owner of the club Sandbar next door to The Boxx, is looking forward to having the police as his new neighbor.

“Safety is our main priority,” Ross said. “The only people it’s going to scare away are people causing trouble.”

More cameras will be installed soon on 17th Street and Atlantic Avenue, where there’s plenty of foot traffic, and another 15 cameras will be added in the resort area over the next few weeks, McBrien said.

McBrien met with property owners and bar managers last week to talk about other new security measures, including the trimming of bushes and trees to increase visibility. Weapons were found in some bushes around the 19th Street public parking lots when the city landscaped there recently.

New devices that will alert police to shots being fired will be installed on hotels in the coming weeks. And three new police liaisons have been assigned to focus on community concerns and building relationships with resort area business owners, McBrien said.

John Zirkle, president of the Virginia Beach Hotel Association and a member of RAC, asked McBrien at Thursday’s meeting if anything can be done about pedestrians playing amplified music and “dropping f-bombs” late at night on the Boardwalk. Several hotel owners are concerned that the music is drawing large crowds and disturbing guests, Zirkle said.

McBrien said the music is considered free speech protected by the First Amendment, but he’s part of a group that is rewriting the city’s noise ordinance in hopes to lower the volume.

Stacy Parker, 757-222-5125, stacy.parker@pilotonline.com

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