Chesapeake residents opposed to proposed juvenile detention center

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Dozens of concerned citizens, mostly from the Deep Creek section of Chesapeake, came to an open house Thursday to ask questions about a proposed Juvenile Detention Center at 3316 South Military Highway.

Everyone 10 On Your Side spoke to was opposed to the center.

Cindy Kaufmann was talking with one of the officials on hand to voice her concerns.

“I am opposed to it,” she said.

The site where the detention center has been proposed is an auto auction lot zoned industrial. It is possible that the land  will become a Juvenile Detention Center for 112 offenders. It could be operating by February 2020.

Beth Sims lives right next door to the proposed project, and found out about it from WAVY News.

“I had no clue about that and honestly, I don’t know what I think about that,” Sims said. “I’m not sure it would be a good thing or a bad thing.”

Mary Felton’s trailer is parallel from the current structures on the property.

“It is right in my backyard,” Felton said. “I am concerned… Someone might escape. Anything could happen. I really don’t know.”

Many who spoke to 10 On Your Side said they didn’t know much about the project.

The detention center would cost about $47 million. Through a partnership, $36 million would come from Virginia, and $11 million from Chesapeake.

Chesapeake City Manager Jim Baker understands community concerns.

“There will be a perimeter fence, there will be security monitoring, there is staff to make sure people stay within the bounds of that area,” he said.

Baker says the reason to build a regional detention center is to avoid sending younger offenders farther away.

“It is ideal to keep those there within an hour of Chesapeake,” Baker said. “This is where their support system is.”

WAVY’s Andy Fox asked Sims, if it wouldn’t be built in Chesapeake, where should it go?

“Yea, I don’t’ know,” Sims said. “I know they need a place, but in a highly residential area that is a problem… It would be nice to be informed about things going on.”

Baker attended the open house, and understands the “not in my backyard” feeling. He wants to hear about legitimate concerns. However, he said, “if you are going to tell me just put it down the street and let someone else deal with it, that won’t be effective, because I know if I move it down there, I know I’m going to have another group of people coming out to talk to me.”

Baker says the detention center will have protective fencing. He says if someone does escape, statistics show the immediate neighborhood is safe.

“It’s one of those strange things people tend not to commit crimes near jails or police stations… They are trying to get as far away, where they know police will be looking next door [from where they escaped] for them immediately.”

According to the planning and construction timeline, the final occupancy and furnishing of the facility, if finally approved, will be no later than February 2020.