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Nonprofit Eyes Net Gains in Public Safety

Loudoun Crime Commission Involves Residents and Law Enforcement Officers

By Karin Brulliard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page LZ03

It has organizational flowcharts and 11 pages of bylaws. It has committees, brochures and a handful of board members.

Now, the Loudoun Crime Commission -- a private, nonprofit group formed to help combat crime in the county -- is looking for more members.

The commission, the brainchild of Loudoun businessman Michael Spak, will hold its first meeting Tuesday. By Friday, Spak said, about 75 people had signed up to eat breakfast and listen to "marquee speaker" Paul J. McNulty, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

But Spak, 57, expects many more will come -- and if he's right, that will be just the beginning. Soon, he hopes, the commission's monthly gatherings will be brimming with law enforcement officers, residents, executives and small business owners brainstorming about how to keep crime low as the county grows.

Loudoun, Spak figures, is full of people wondering how they can serve their community.

"This is going to allow them a way to do that," he said.

Spak counts himself among them. A former CIA agent and Los Angeles police officer, Spak now runs a Lansdowne consulting company and the Amber Creek Vineyard in Leesburg. Recently, he started feeling like he wanted to give back. A friend in Dallas told Spak about the crime commission there. Spak, pondering the idea while tending to his vines last fall, thought it might work in Loudoun.

He acknowledges that the Loudoun Crime Commission might be the oddball on the list of the 20 or so places that have them, including New York City, Chicago and Atlanta, all of which are big cities with big-city crime. Loudoun's crime rate, on the other hand, is less than half the national average, according to local and Justice Department statistics.

But Spak figures that won't last in fast-growing Loudoun. It is best to head crime off at the pass, he said.

"The companion to population growth is crime," Spak said. "I don't care how good law enforcement is."

Local law enforcement agencies have gotten on board: The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office and Leesburg police each appointed an officer to act as a liaison to the commission. Sheriff Stephen O. Simpson said he was especially encouraged by the idea of involving Loudoun-based businesses -- and their dollars -- in the crime-fighting effort.

"I hope it works. The more invested the community can be, the more effective we can be," he said. "This is an avenue to do that locally."

In January, Spak and the two officers -- Maj. Bob Brendel of the sheriff's office and Leesburg police Lt. Wes Thompson -- flew to Dallas to immerse themselves in the crime commission there. They came back with a three-ring binder full of plans.

"It's a win-win for law enforcement and for the community because they're not looking to replace budgets or to strong-arm anybody into anything," Thompson said. "It's an apolitical, stand-alone entity that is just looking to better law enforcement and crime just in Loudoun. I'm sold on it."

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