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Fredericksburg City Police did not come on like gang busters at F.W. Sullivan's, says Chief David Nye,
THE HEADLINE on Tommy Mitchell's Wednesday commentary reads "Who brought the fight to Sullivan's? Council." However, it was the business itself that provoked the increased attention of law enforcement by failing to adequately regulate the behavior of some
As a full partner in the mission to protect and enhance the quality of life for all city stakeholders, the Police Department is committed to strategies that proactively address identified concerns.
Since the closing of Mexico Lindo in April 2011, the Police Department has tracked the record of officer responses to city businesses that primarily cater to a nighttime crowd. While Fredericksburg nightspots vary in size and allowable occupancy, among those that are comparable in drawing a sizable clientele, F.W. Sullivan's clearly stood out this year. Since its opening, both the number of complaints and the number of arrests that stemmed from F.W. Sullivan's warranted attention and intervention from authorities.
The British military officer who broke into the Fredericksburg Baptist Church in August and caused several thousand dollars in damages to stained-glass windows spent the evening celebrating at F.W. Sullivan's before going on his rampage. The young Fredericksburg man who unlawfully entered a home on Hanover Street in July and was met by the homeowner wielding a shotgun became heavily intoxicated at F.W. Sullivan's before opening the wrong door and making a mistake that could have ended his life.
Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 8 this year, nine people were arrested for driving under the influence after, by their own admission, consuming alcohol at F.W. Sullivan's. Ten reports and/or arrests for assault and 13 arrests for public intoxication related to F.W. Sullivan's occurred during those same eight months.
There have also been numerous complaints from neighboring property owners about trash, urine, and vomit left on their doorsteps following weekend activities.
These are only snapshots of the incidents that support the need for increased police presence in the 400 block of William Street.
However, a number of assertions in Mitchell's commentary about this targeted patrol effort are simply not factual.
There has never been a raid for drugs or for any other reason conducted at F.W. Sullivan's.
While more than one member of the city council has participated in ride-alongs with police on numerous occasions and accompanied officers on patrol, no council member has ever been disguised or "undercover."
City police have never been "sent to line up across the street from the restaurant toting machine guns and dressed up in riot gear and face masks." This characterization of police activity is a grossly exaggerated description of officers in standard-issue uniform conducting visible patrols and deterring crime through their boots on the street. There was no riot gear or machine guns.
Despite the claim that F.W. Sullivan's has never had an ABC violation, the business has indeed been served with a formal written warning of license violations from the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The three-page warning report issued on July 12, 2012, documents instances reported by police or observed by ABC agents.
These include the serving of alcohol to intoxicated patrons, the illegal removal and consumption of alcohol from authorized areas on the premises, the sale of alcohol to an underage person, and multiple incidents involving patrons who were allowed to leave the establishment only to be arrested later for public intoxication or driving while intoxicated.
The Police Department has no interest in curtailing the lawful operation of businesses that serve alcohol. However, many of the documented incidents at F.W. Sullivan's involved one or more violations that posed a clear threat to public safety. A continuous requirement for police intervention is indicative of business management that has little regard for the welfare of patrons and no respect for the city of Fredericksburg or its residents.
Although the primary responsibility for their actions rests with the patrons of a business, it is also the duty of restaurant and bar managers to prevent impaired patrons from becoming a danger to the community.
We agree with Mitchell that the resources of the police are both valuable and limited. We agree that healthy, viable businesses are good for the city. But we do not agree that the ring of the cash register should give license to business owners to operate without consideration for the peace and security of their neighbors.
David Nye is the chief of the Fredericksburg Police Department.