08 July 2014
Life-long Fluvanna resident Mark Belew is hoping to bring his 15 years of law enforcement experience back home to Fluvanna County. Belew says he has filed the necessary paperwork to be put on the ballot for the special election for sheriff on November 4.
Belew began his law enforcement career at the University of Virginia in 2000, and by 2002 was working for the Albemarle County Police Department. “It was the largest agency in Central Virginia at the time,” Belew explained, “and there were so many different things you could specialize in – forensics, tactics, firearms teams… it just seemed very attractive to me as a young cop to get a lot of experience in many different areas within the field.”
Belew became an Albemarle County Detective in 2008, investigating property crimes, rapes, homicides and other major cases. He was also sworn in as a Special Deputy United States Marshal and is currently assigned to the Southern Virginia Internet Crimes against Children Task Force, investigating crimes involving the sexual exploitation of minors.
For the last several years, Belew has been considering returning home to Fluvanna to put the skills acquired during his time in Albemarle to good use. “I think it has always been in the back of my mind, wanting to work here at home … I felt like I had gained a lot of experience and become a go-to guy for some of the younger generation of law enforcement in Albemarle County. I can now envision myself in more of a leadership role. If I want to be in a leadership role and I want to go back home to my rural community where I grew up - why not go for the sheriff’s position? Now, the timing is right - it is a good time to throw my name in the hat.”
If he is elected, Belew wants to build stronger connections between Fluvanna’s communities and the sheriff’s office. “It is an extremely powerful tool,” he said of the collaborative process known as citizen advisory committees, in which individuals from all over the county meet with law enforcement to express their concerns and share their ideas for enhancing the work of the sheriff’s office within their own neighborhoods.
“Once you empower people,“ Belew said, “the thought is that it can become seminal, and can spread throughout the community. Once that trust is built, results begin to show up; then you hope that snowball continues to roll and the level of community involvement grows. Having a citizens advisory committee made up of people from different backgrounds and areas within the community - bringing folks that live in these communities to the table with the sheriff’s office to discuss these issues collaboratively - it creates dialogue and creates ownership of the things that are happening in their own backyard. Having that direct input into the sheriff’s office is going to be helpful in the long run. Law enforcement,“ he added, “is only as good as the relationships you have with your community.”
Belew also believes in working collaboratively with other law enforcement agencies, other jurisdictions, and other groups. He is particularly concerned with child abuse and neglect, and this model of cooperation would be particularly effective, he believes, in addressing that issue.
“The multidisciplinary team model brings together all these different departments to openly share information. Often law enforcement has one small piece of the puzzle as it relates to child abuse and neglect, and social services has another small piece of the puzzle, and child protective services has another, and Region Ten has another, and no one department has all of the information or is able to provide the absolute best service. Each situation is a little bit different, and while it may not be a law enforcement issue – it may turn out to be non-criminal – there may be some information that law enforcement collects that is applicable for another department. By collaborating under agreements and getting together and discussing cases at the same table… well, any time you put a bunch of heads together to come up with a common solution, you are going to be better off and better services are going to be provided.”
Belew also pledges to aggressively pursue grant funding to help fund his department while the economy struggles. “There are a lot of grant-funded initiatives out there – mental health programs are a prime example - that are available to supplement training and equipment and balance out some of the budget shortfall,” he said.
Belew and his wife and two young children live at Lake Monticello.