Over the Fencepost Newsletter

Community Focus

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Press Releases

Text-to-911 is Now Available

Calling is still the best way to contact 911 in an emergency, but in certain situations, a text might be better. The Prince William County Office of Public Safety Communications can now accept text-to-911 emergency messages from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless customers who find themselves needing assistance in Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park. The service should only be used when someone has a physical disability or special need where calling is not possible or when speaking out loud would put the caller in danger.

Certain communities will find text-to-911 particularly helpful, said Prince William Public Safety Communications Director Captain Alfred Miller. People who are deaf or hard of hearing, those with speech disabilities or who are unable to speak, and community service or suicide hotlines will find the service useful.

The texts can be up to 140 characters and should include the location and type of emergency. They should be short, with simple words, and without abbreviations or slang. People should be prepared to answer questions and follow directions provided by the 911 call taker. They should not text and drive.

Miller warned that there are some potential drawbacks to texting 911. “Just like any text message, there could be a delay in the pipeline sending it. It could be misdirected. There’s all kinds of things that could happen. It’s not as foolproof as calling 911. We always prefer to talk to people over the phone. What we’re trying to emphasize is ‘Call if you can. Text if you cannot.'” People who text a message to 911 and don’t receive an immediate response will need to make an emergency voice call.

Miller also warned that photos and videos cannot be sent via text-to-911; and the text cannot include more than one recipient, 911. The service won’t be available when cell service is in roaming mode and should not be used for non-emergencies. Rather, those types of incidents should be reported through the Police non-emergency phone number, 703-792-6500.

While text-to-911 is available in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., it is not available everywhere in Virginia and the United States. If a person texts 911 and the service is not available, the person will receive a response stating that the service is not available and they should call 911. A text or data plan is required to place a text to 911.

For more information about text-to-911, visit

“Click It or Ticket” Seatbelt Enforcement Begins on May 22nd

Regular seatbelt use saves lives, according to the “Click It or Ticket” seatbelt enforcement campaign.

Prince William County Police join law enforcement agencies throughout Virginia in the “Click It or Ticket” campaign to enforce the Commonwealth’s safety-belt and child safety-seat laws. The Department will participate in high-visibility patrols – day and night – from Monday, May 22, through Sunday, June 4 (which includes the Memorial Day holiday weekend).

Seat belts are mandatory in Virginia for all persons riding in the front seat. Virginia car seat laws also state that:
• All children under the age of eight must ride in a federally approved, secured safety seat.
• Children between eight and 15 must use a safety seat, booster seat, or seat belt,
no matter where in the vehicle the child is riding.
• It is the driver’s responsibility to make sure all children, age 15 and under, are secured properly.

Virginia law allows police to cite anyone driving a car in which an occupant under age 16 is not wearing a safety belt, or is not in a child safety seat. It also provides that drivers may be cited if they are not properly restrained if stopped for other violations.

“Click It or Ticket” is one of several programs under the Smart, Safe and Sober partnership. Smart, Safe and Sober is a statewide program dedicated to preventing death and injury on Virginia roadways. It is a partnership of the Prince William County Police, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, the Virginia Department of State Police, the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, DRIVE SMART Virginia, and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.
Unless you want to risk a ticket, or worse, always remember to “Click It or Ticket,” day and night.

Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is April 29

The proper disposal of unused prescription and over-the-counter medications can prevent accidental poisoning, overdose and abuse. That’s why the Prince William County Police Department works with other local and federal partners to hold events in the spring and fall where they collect unused medications. This is part of a nationwide initiative called Take-Back Days.

The next Take-Back day is April 29 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and drop off points will be at the following locations:

  • Novant Health UVA Health System Prince William Medical Center, 8700 Sudley Road in Manassas

  • Sentara Lake Ridge, 12825 Minnieville Road in Lake Ridge

  • Novant Health System Haymarket Medical Center, 15225 Heathcote Blvd in Haymarket

Prince William Police Sgt. Ben Grantham said people shouldn’t ignore the potential danger of having unused medications laying around. The majority of people abusing prescription drugs get them from family, friends and the home medicine cabinet. “You want to get that out of your home so that it’s not abused by a child or another member of the household.”

Grantham also said the drugs could threaten drinking water, if they’re not disposed of properly. “The problems exist when they get flushed into the water system and they get into our water supply. Small amounts of the medications start to show up in our drinking water, and it becomes a problem. They need to be turned over and disposed of in a proper way.”

Prince William Police Officer Marcia Whaley said that they hope people will take advantage of the opportunity to get rid of unwanted medications. “Everyone is eligible to drop off their unused prescription medications.”

“We encourage everybody to reach out to friends and family and let them know what we’re doing,” Grantham said. “The more that we can spread the word, the more we can get into these communities and get rid of these excess medications that may be causing problems.”

After collecting the unwanted medications, the police turn the drugs over the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA, for proper handling, Whaley said. “We take the medications … to the DEA, and they then take the bags from us. The drugs are then driven to where they’re incinerated.”

For more information about the prescription drug take-back days, visit or call the Crime Prevention Unit at 703-792-7270.

Know Who Maintains and Plows Your Road

With potential snow in the forecast, it’s important to know who maintains the roads for plowing purposes. The Prince William County Geographic Information Systems, or GIS, Division recently updated the road closure application to include road maintenance information. Residents can now visit to see which organization or jurisdiction is responsible for taking care of each road in the county.

“There is a new section in the application showing who the responsible party would be to maintain those roads,” said Malcolm Echaluce, GIS Administrator. “It shows, for example, if the road is maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, or the county or the towns, or if it’s privately owned or maintained.”

The application also shows phone numbers for those organizations responsible for the road maintenance, such as snow plowing, pothole repair or other road work. The roads on the maps are color-coded so people will be able to easily tell who they should contact for road issues. “If there are particular roads that people happen to be driving on and perhaps there’s a pothole issue or another service related issue, they would know exactly who to contact or who the responsible party is. That way they’re not left to figure out who’s supposed to be taking care of it,” Echaluce said.

In order to see the road maintenance information, the user must click on the icon of the triangle with the exclamation point. To see a specific road, users can zoom into the appropriate area or use the search feature.

Go to to see road maintenance information, current road closures and to sign up to receive road closure notifications.


Animal Shelter Fall Festival

The Prince William County Animal Shelter will host a Fall Festival on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, from Noon to 4 p.m. The Shelter is located at 14807 Bristow Road in Manassas (20112).

The event includes a rabies clinic, sponsored by the Prince William Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PWC SPCA).Bring your dogs and cats to get a rabies vaccine and certificate for just $10. This clinic will run from 1 to 3 p.m.

You can also get your pets’ nails trimmed for just $5 per animal. For the safety of everyone, all dogs that attend must be on a leash; all cats that attend must be in carriers.

There will be vendors, family fun activities, and free giveaways of pet-related items, as well as a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Children’s Library, which is also sponsored by the PWC SPCA.Additionally, the Shelter will have animals for adoption. Come select your “fur-ever” friend!

For more information, visit the Animal Shelter’s and the Police Department’s Facebook pages.You can also call the Shelter at 703-792-6465, or send an email to

Animal Shelter


Before and After School Camp at Chinn Offers Fun and Unique Activities for Kids

The Before and After School Camp at the Chinn Aquatics and Fitness Center will offer kindergartners through eighth graders all kinds of things to do when they’re not in school once the school year begins.

Campers will have access to amenities like the pool, outdoor play and the gymnasium at Chinn. There will also be library visits and a nature trail for hikes and learning.

Activities at the camp will include homework time, drama classes, arts and crafts, special events and community projects in a safe place for children to be before and after school, said Rob Belcourt, a recreation specialist for children’s programs with the Department of Parks and Recreation. “We take a lot of pride in making sure that our program is unique from other competitors in the area. Part of that is swimming, and getting them involved in structured homework time in the afternoon so the kids can have that time to get it done before they have to go home at the end of the day.”

The schools served by the program at Chinn include Antietam, Old Bridge, Lake Ridge, Porter and Westridge elementary schools and Beville, Lake Ridge and Woodbridge middle schools and Porter Traditional School, Belcourt said. Daily transportation to and from participating schools will be provided.

Full day options will be available on teacher work days and inclement weather days. The ratio at the camp is one staff member for every 10 campers.

Registration forms and costs are available on the Parks & Recreation website.