“I don’t like this at all,” says Giuriceo, as he pulls into an open space and jumps out of his car. After telling Lindsey Kelly to stay in her car, he hollers through the open door, “Police! If anyone is in here, show yourself now!”
Out on the sidewalk, it’s a tense few minutes for Kelly as she waits for Giuriceo to return. When he does, she joins him in another walkthrough of the now-cleared apartment.
“Once I’m sure there isn’t anyone in the place, I always do a second walkthrough with the person who called for a few reasons,” he said. “First, we can see if anything has been taken; second, it makes them feel safer having walked through the house with an officer.”
After the inspection, nothing seems to be out of place and the mood quickly lightens. A quick check of the door shows it had been left unlocked—and probably not pulled all the way shut.
There’s a real sense of engagement and cooperation at Longwood that doesn’t exist at other places.Sgt. Greg Giuriceo
“It’s pretty windy out here tonight,” Giuriceo tells Kelly. “More than likely, that’s the culprit. But if you happen to see anything that doesn’t look right or find that something is missing, just call us back and we’ll come right back out. Have a good night.”
An obviously relieved Kelly thanks Giuriceo, who climbs back in his patrol car to continue making rounds of Longwood property.
The longtime police officer, who has spent time in Hampden-Sydney’s police department and in Lynchburg, says the interaction was indicative of the relationship Longwood students have with LUPD officers.
“It’s a totally different culture than working on a city police force,” he said. “The vast majority of students here know we are there to help them and have their best interests at heart. There’s a real sense of engagement and cooperation at Longwood that doesn’t exist at other places. It’s one of the reasons I’m happy to be a part of this team—we develop deep relationships with these students over their time here."
Col. Bob Beach, chief of police, came to Longwood in 2007 after a lengthy career in Fairfax County, one of the largest police forces in Virginia. When he arrived, he found a police force that needed leadership and a new direction. Beach put his 40 years of experience to work immediately, instilling a philosophy of community policing and a commitment to professionalism.
“Ten years ago, the Longwood University Police Department was seen as more of a security force than a professional law enforcement operation,” he said. “We immediately began to change the culture—investing in training for officers and staff, hiring veteran officers and starting to develop a relationship with the community we serve to build trust and respect on both sides.”
Charting a new course wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. Today, the LUPD is recognized as one of the top 20 university police forces in the country by Security magazine, a distinction it has held for seven straight years. Annual surveys show more than 90 percent of students feel safe on campus, and each year initiatives designed to build those critical relationships are put into place.
How did Beach lead such a dramatic change? He says it all started by making a firm commitment to the principles of community policing, the practice of law enforcement officers becoming part of the communities they patrol.
Our goal is to develop personal relationships with students, faculty and staff.Col. Bob Beach
“Cops are problem solvers,” said Beach. “They’ve always been problem solvers. We are at our best when we take the concerns and cares of the people we’re protecting and help them deal with it. On this campus, the 2021 extension is a problem-solving number, and most of our students realize that very quickly.”
Beach hosts a monthly “Coffee With The Chief” to field questions from the community about his department or trends in law enforcement. LUPD officers are participating for the first time this year in the Torch Run to support Special Olympics. There are regular forums, and officers are often asked to speak to student groups about a particular issue. At exam time, LUPD officers stand on High Street and pay the meter fee for students parking there so there is one less concern at an extremely stressful time.
And just this year, when weather permits, an on-duty officer walks down Brock Commons each day at 1:45—during class change—with the express purpose of talking to students, faculty and staff.
“That’s often where it starts—just talking,” said Beach. “Our goal is to develop personal relationships with students, faculty and staff.”
Back on Thursday night—fairly quiet by Spring Weekend standards, which Giuriceo thinks may be the weather or the fact that Hampden-Sydney is having its major spring concert that night—the scheduled rounds continue with a trip through Lancer Park. Giuriceo makes a few loops around the parking lot and sees a student standing alone at the bus stop.
“I like to say hello to students when they are alone like this,” he says, rolling the passenger window down. “Just to make sure they are ok and to let them know we’re looking out for them.”
“Good thing you brought your scarf, it’s a bit chilly out tonight,” he calls out to the student, who smiles. “Are you waiting for the bus?”
“Yep, hopefully they have the heat turned on in there.”
“I’m sure they do,” answers Giuriceo. “You just stay warm and have a good night, ok?”
“Ok, officer. You too.”
That’s a pretty typical nightly interaction, says Giuriceo.
“Most of the students here know we are on their side,” he said. “You can see that in the way they interact with us—typically they aren’t nervous or uneasy, but warm and open. It really says a lot about the student body here, and how far we’ve come as a police department.”