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Message to the Prince William Chief of Police: Help us in Williamstown

WOODBRIDGE — A small but vocal minority brought the headlining issue to a public meeting with Prince William County’s police chief.

The message: There are problems in Williamstown, a neighborhood in Dumfries.

“No one has got hurt yet, but I’m afraid somebody will,” one resident told Potomac Local on the condition of anonymity in fear of retaliation.

In all, at least six Dumfries residents came to “A Conversation with the Chief” held Monday at the Ferlazzo government building in Woodbridge to voice their concerns about Williamstown. They say a gang of men ranging in ages between their 20s and 30s regularly walk up and down the streets, discharge firearms, loiter in the culdesacs, and intimidate others.

“They see you walking, they pick you out, and they know you’re not with them, not part of that lifestyle,” another resident told Potomac Local on the condition of anonymity,

Some of the men regularly walk up and down Old Triangle Road, loiter at bus stops, harass passersby, and lean on cars.

“I yelled at one of them to get off the car and and said ‘did you make the payment on [the car] this month?” one resident told a Prince William police officer.

“We want to know what we can do to work with you for you to protect us, so we don’t have someone coming to us and saying ‘I’m sorry, but you lost a child,” another resident asked Prince William police Chief Barry Barnard.

Residents told Potomac Local it could take up to 20 minutes for police to respond when they call to complain. If the call is placed after 9 p.m., Prince William police admit they can only enforce state laws inside the town borders, which means county officers cannot enforce the county’s curfew ordinance. That, Williamstown residents say, is an unfortunate issue of politics.

Residents told Barnard that the gang has worked out a signal — a whistle — to warn other members of the approaching police. By the time law enforcement shows up, they’ve scattered.

One Williamstown resident who spoke during the meeting said she was concerned about the current lack of officers at the Dumfries Police Department — a separate agency from Prince William County police — as it works to train new officers after nearly its entire force walked out last year. A new police chief was hired earlier this year.

That same resident brought a roll of adhesive stickers shaped like Dumfries police badges, handed them to Chief Barnard, and asked him to help recruit new police officers to the town.

Prince William police regularly supplement patrols in the town if a Dumfries town officer is not available to respond to a 911 call.

“Whether they are there or not, whether they have seven [officers] or zero, we’re going to be there to answer those calls,” Barnard told the crowd.

After the Williamstown residents spoke, Barnard asked his lieutenants to speak with them one on one outside the auditorium where the meeting was held. That group told Potomac Local said they had set a meeting with members of the elected Dumfries Town Council to try to work together to clean up the neighborhood, and that they hoped Prince William police would be there, too.

Editor’s note: We’ll update this post with information about that meeting as soon as we receive it from the Williamstown HOA.

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