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Bedford participates in national program to promote crime prevention through citizen involvement

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By John Barnhart

National Night Out, a national program designed to promote crime prevention awareness, generate support for law enforcement and send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back, has been going on for 27 years. This year, Bedford joined in for the first time with a city-wide event held at the Farmers’ Market last week.

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    The evening gave people an opportunity to learn about what various public safety organizations do. Operation Blue Ridge Thunder was on hand to provide a service via the Virginia Child Identity Program. 
    “Parents come here and we will collect data on their child,” said Sergeant Terry Wright of Blue Ridge Thunder.
    They digitally take a fingerprint of all 10 fingers, get a photograph and do a video of the child answering some questions. This, and other information, goes on a CD which is given to the child’s parents.
    If the child ever turns up missing, the parents can give this CD to law enforcement. Wright said that this provides valuable information, quickly, to investigators looking for the child. It also provides it in a format that allows one law enforcement agency to quickly disseminate it to others.
    Wright said that the Mason’s Virginia organization provides the software.
    The Night Out began at 7 p.m. and Lt. Todd Foreman, of Bedford’s police department, said there were around 200 there by 8 p.m.
    People had  a  chance to try out driving a golf cart, or walking a straight line, while wearing special goggles that simulate being drunk. Folks didn’t do too well. They also had a chance to check out the Bedford Volunteer Fire Department’s Rescue 1 truck with all its compartments open so that they could see the equipment this vehicle carries.
    It also gave the Bedford Police Department the chance to issue a public “well done” to some of its officers.
      Officer Shannon Walker, a Liberty High School graduate and a 2000 graduate of Liberty University,  is a five-year veteran of the Bedford Police Department.  Officer Walker was named Officer of the year for 2009.
    According to the citation, on Aug. 16, 2009, Walker responded to the Wal-Mart parking lot in reference to a lookout for a possible stolen car from Bedford County.  Officer Walker found a vehicle matching the description of a Chrysler 300 reported stolen from a dealership on Forest Road. There was a female in the driver’s seat whom Walker found to be Bessie Wallace. Officer Walker interviewed her and found that she had no local address and was using the vehicle to try to leave Bedford. 
    Officer Walker placed Wallace into investigatory detention and continued his investigation.  He found that Wallace had broken into the dealership on Forest Road and had stolen the car, intending to drive to Atlanta.  He also found that a warrant was outstanding for Walker in Bedford for trespassing.  
    As a result of  his investigation, a vehicle valued in excess of $12,000 was recovered, and a county burglary investigation was cleared with an arrest. Wallace remains in the Blue Ridge Regional Jail pending trial.
    Officer Walker and Officer Timothy Lawless were honored as the December 2009 officers of the month.
    According to the citation, on Dec. 7, 2009, Bedford police officers were dispatched to a purse snatching at the Wal-Mart located on Lynchburg-Salem Turnpike in Bedford County.  The purse contained in excess of $2,000 plus the usual personal items.  Officer Walker responded directly to Wal-Mart while Officers Timothy Lawless and Paul Barksdale attempted to locate the suspect vehicle.  When Officer Walker arrived he was able, with the assistance of a witness, to obtain a description of the suspect and vehicle and located the occupied vehicle in the parking lot.  He continued to observe the vehicle and gather more information as to a possible suspect. 
    When Officer Lawless arrived, the officers began to interview the occupants of the vehicle and a suspect, Lisa Flint, was identified and detained.  As the investigation progressed, the victim’s purse was located in the vehicle by Officer Lawless, and all the money, with the exception of $100 was  found.  Through continuing interviews, a second subject was located and the missing $100 was recovered.  As the investigation progressed, Officer Walker located stolen credit cards and identification from two other victims from Roanoke County stores. 
    Officer Lawless recovered video surveillance from Wal-Mart which verified Flint as the person who had committed the offense.  Information gathered by officers at the scene assisted Officer Walker and the assigned investigator in obtaining admissions in the Bedford County purse snatching case as well as the two Roanoke County purse snatching cases. 
    The response by Officers Walker and Lawless, followed by their determined investigation lead to the arrest of a career criminal, and the recovery of $2100 in cash, a check book, a forged check and several items containing personal information belonging to a variety of victims.  The officers’ response to a crime in progress in an adjoining jurisdiction demonstrated the department’s goal to provide a safe and secure environment for all citizens.