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Home Is Where the Officer Is

"This is the first thing I look at when I wake up and the last thing before I go to bed," said Williams, looking fondly at the pictures.

Residential officer Jesse Meekins remembered visiting one Andrew Adkins apartment and seeing side-by-side photos of "Jesus, a cross and Jim" on the wall.

Alexandria police officer Francesca Evans drives through the Andrew Adkins project where she lives and patrols as part of the city's residential policing program. (Photos Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)

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Although she has been at the complex just a short time, the easygoing Evans has already won fans.

"She's very approachable -- we can talk to her," said 19-year-old Shyree Carter.

Resident Javaun Dixon, 18, was quick to agree. "Yeah, she doesn't hassle us like the other police do," he said, casting a wary eye in the direction of a group of officers standing at a distance. "She's very friendly."

While she appears to be easygoing, Evans can be firm when necessary. On one recent day she confronted a nonresident who had been barred from the property because he threatened another officer. During the exchange, the man referred to her as "honey."

"I am not honey. I am Officer Evans," she said tersely.

He was subsequently arrested for trespassing and released on a summons.

Although the officers win over many residents, they know that there are those who remain leery. As Ford joined in a barbecue recently at the Charles Houston Recreation Center, which is near the James Bland homes, a woman came up to him and gave him a hug.

"I know people think I'm a snitch, but I don't care," the woman said. "I have friends who are police officers."

For the five officers, who are also at Hampton Court in West End and Arlandria, the job can take its toll, because they they rarely get uninterrupted time off. They also inherit whatever quality-of-life problems the residents face.

"If they have a problem with cockroaches, I'm going to have the same problem with cockroaches," said Meekins, who lives at Crestview Commons. "It's not 'they,' it's 'we.' "

It's that mentality of "we" that Evans said she is ready to embrace -- the good and the bad.

"Home is what you make it," Evans said, repeating what her mother always told her while growing up in public housing in New York City. "This is now my community."

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