Three months after the savage beating death of Natalie Giles Davis in her Woodbridge neighborhood, and just days before one of her alleged attackers is to stand trial, Prince William County wants to move a handful of police officers into the neighborhood, hoping to quell residents' fears on the eve of the court date.
Although county officials have maintained that the Bentley Circle area is not crime-ridden, they said yesterday they hope to move as many as three officers into an empty town house there to increase police visibility and improve ties with the community. Police Chief Charlie T. Deane said that there have been concerns in the neighborhood since Davis's slaying in June, but that there have been few, if any, serious criminal complaints.
Nonetheless, officials are seeking to rent a vacant town house at 13554 Bentley Circle for the officers. The property was foreclosed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, so county officials are seeking approval from HUD Secretary Andrew M. Cuomo to lease it temporarily.
Davis, 25, was beaten to death June 29 on her way to church with her two young children when she allegedly got into an argument with some teenage girls who police say were blocking the street.
Two teenagers have been charged in the attack: Teresa Hattie Dixon, 18, of the Alexandria section of Fairfax County, is to go on trial Monday in Circuit Court on charges of murder and aggravated malicious wounding, and Kurebia Maria Hampton, 16, of Woodbridge, will be tried as an adult next month on charges of murder, felony murder and aggravated malicious wounding.
Davis's death alarmed county officials and focused attention on a growing feeling of fear among many Bentley Circle residents.
"We have had some concerns about that neighborhood since the murder," Deane said yesterday. "We think that it would be of value to have a police officer or police officers live there. If we can obtain a HUD house . . . we would be showing a flag there on a daily basis."
The county leases at least two homes for police officers in other neighborhoods.
Deane and County Executive Bern Ewert visited Bentley Circle shortly after Davis's death, asking how officials could address problems in densely developed areas with high levels of vacancy and absentee ownership. "One of the conclusions I came to was, we could use more police presence here," Ewert said.
If the county obtains HUD approval, Deane said his officers would reside at the town house full time, taking their police cruisers home with them. Crucial to the success of such a program, he said, would be officer involvement in the community.
HUD spokeswoman Peggy Johannsen said Cuomo's office received the county's letter yesterday and will work to make the town house available. "Secretary Cuomo has made it a big priority to prevent crime in our nation's communities," Johannsen said, adding that HUD first must verify if the agency owns the town house.
"It is a logical step for HUD to intervene . . . because it would be in the best interests of the community," she said, adding that Cuomo "believes in the community policing concept--that good neighbors create good neighborhoods."
Julian Bermudez, Prince William's director of housing and community development, said officials had to make a special request to Cuomo because the county does not qualify for a HUD program that sells homes to police officers at below-market rates in an effort to create safer communities.
CAPTION: Teresa Hattie Dixon goes on trial Monday in the June beating death of Natalie Giles Davis.