Petersburg City Council approves agreement for demolition project

Second Lt. Eric Johnson, project manager for Operation Renew, prepares to meet with members of the Petersburg City Council. (Photo by 1st Lt. Erin Jones, Virginia Counterdrug Task Force)

PETERSBURG, Va. — Members of the Virginia National Guard Counterdrug Task Force met with the Petersburg City Council May 1 at the Union Train Station in Petersburg to approve a agreement that would allow Virginia National Guard engineer units to support the city’s demolition of derelict structures associated with the drug trade.

Members of the council voted unanimously to approve the agreement with the Virginia National Guard and move forward with the project pending final approval.

“We are very excited to work with the National Guard on this project,” said Petersburg’s mayor, Brian Moore.

The mission, dubbed Operation Renew, will involve the demolition of approximately 20 houses in the Petersburg area at no cost to the city.

“Our goal is to assist communities by providing National Guard engineering assets and personnel to knock down structures that are proven drug trafficking locations,” said 2nd Lt. Eric Johnson, project manager for Operation Renew.

“This is an opportunity to have a partnership with the National Guard and work on a problem that we have within our city,” said John Dixon III, Petersburg’s chief of police.

“Operation Renew will help rid Petersburg of gangs, drugs, and related violence and allow for community revitalization,” said Johnson.

“Demolishing these houses will send a message to the bad guys that if you are going to do drugs in these locations we will take them away from you,” said Chief Dixon. “It also sends a message to the good guys that we are here for you.”

The last time Counterdrug performed this type of mission was in 2003 when one house was destroyed in a Richmond neighborhood.

The Counterdrug coordinator, Lt. Col. Charlton Dunn, noted that the Counterdrug program already provides Petersburg with counter-narcotics support in the form of helicopters and ion scanning to test for drug residue on currency and other items.

If final approval is received, the Petersburg mission is slated to begin the first week in August and will include a media day event.