Five investigators are crunched into one 16-by-16-foot office at the Gar-Field police station. It is not unusual to see officers scurrying around the building looking for an open office when questioning suspects because there is only one interview room. The records department in Manassas needs additional data entry employees, but there is no room.
Welcome to the Prince William County Police Department, where 302 uniformed police officers and 121 civilian employees share too little spacet at the Gar-Field station on Cardinal Drive on the eastern end of the county and the police headquarters in Manassas.
At Gar-Field, there are no locker rooms. Officers must wear their uniforms to and from work, which many officers said they feel uncomfortable doing. There are no showers or workout facilities as there are in many police stations in other jurisdictions.
The space crunch has resulted in reduced effectiveness because there are too many bodies doing too much work in too little space, county officials said. Time is lost when officers must wait for office space and problems occur when suspects and crime victims meet in crowded hallways.
"If there is not enough room to work and the office spaces are too small and officers are trying to interview people with traffic coming in and out, it causes problems with efficiency," said Deputy County Executive Connie Bawcum.
A proposed $4.2 million renovation of the Gar-Field station, originally scheduled for 1992, was delayed and the money was used to revamp the Juvenile Detention Home, which also was crowded, Bawcum said.
Until 1987, Prince William County voters regularly rejected most bond referendums, so the county was forced to build most of its facilities using money it had on hand.
Money for capital improvements -- major projects -- also has been limited by a self-imposed debt ceiling the County Board of Supervisors adopted to maintain the county's fiscal health.
The space problem also has been felt at the Prince William County Judicial Center in Manassas, which was scheduled for an 85,000-square-foot expansion next year until plans were postponed.
The judicial center opened in 1984, bringing court services together from several locations across the county, Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert said.
"A lot of people could see this building wouldn't service the needs for very long, but there was only a limited amount of money," Ebert said. Before the center opened, his office was in a converted house where, for a while, a bathroom was used as an office.
The police moved into the Gar-Field station when the department began operation in 1970. It formerly included a health department office and other offices, which since have been relocated. Wood-paneled partitions form many of the offices. Old furniture is mixed with new. Sixteen traffic and canine unit officers are squeezed into one tiny office. Patrol officers in Manassas and Gar-Field jockey for desk space because they have no work stations.
"We all hope that everyone remembered to take a shower and we all like each other," one officer said. "We have to -- we are all so close."
Police Chief Charlie T. Deane said the squeeze has resulted in morale problems and has hampered recruiting efforts. Possible recruits who tour Prince William stations and then go to other, better-equipped police jurisdictions sometimes reconsider applying.
Officers in Fairfax and Arlington counties reported having more up-to-date facilities. All seven Fairfax stations have fitness equipment, spokesman Peter Fakoury said. Fakoury said Prince William facilities are undergoing the change that all burgeoning police agencies go through. "They are seeing the same growth Fairfax did 20 years ago . . . and the department is busy trying to keep up with that."
Carol Showalter, spokeswoman for the Loudoun County Sheriff's Department, said 207 sworn officers and civilian personnel share two stations and one small field office, which are slightly crowded. The major complaint in Loudoun is that the offices are so far apart, she said.
In Prince William, the problem with space in police stations and courts has become serious, and though authorities know the county can't squeeze money where there is none, they want something done.
"My concern is we will reach the point where there is no place to go and the administration of justice will suffer," said Ebert, who was forced to move a clerical worker into a storage closet last week for lack of office space.
Deane said there is concern about security for police officers because the more crowded it gets, the more likely it is that prisoners and officers will be in close proximity. Police vehicles repeatedly have been vandalized at the unfenced Manassas and Gar-Field parking lots.
At the courthouse, a jury room is being converted into a courtroom. That in turn led to space being removed from the Circuit Court Clerk's offices, which then expanded into a hallway. Last month, a visiting judge held court in a storage room, a court source said. "It's difficult to say if a judicious hearing can take place in a storeroom," the court official said.
Court officials on an expansion committee were told last week that plans to relocate some offices to leased space have been put on hold because the county has no money for new leases.
A study done by a Richmond firm outlines three options to relocate some court facilities until the expansion is completed. The options call for -- in various combinations -- the relocation of the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, the law library and county sheriff's facilities to make room for new courtrooms and other facilities.