Purcellville residents have longed turned to the town’s police reports for updates on public safety in their community. But lately, more have come to appreciate the special flair given to the summary of typically mundane incidents in the quiet town.
Deputy Police Chief Dave Dailey has been writing the Police Department’s weekly crime reports for about a year now. Since then, he has added humor into a few of the incidents he has written about—minor incidents he said have lent themselves to the silliness, like the time he wrote about two people who got into a fight over the last Brillo pad at 7-Eleven.
Dailey said his primary goal is to keep residents updated on public safety matters. He said that if it takes a bit of humor to do that, at least in non-serious situations, then that’s what he’ll deliver.
“That’s our goal, is to be able to provide information,” he said. “It’s trying to put a human face on law enforcement.”
On June 19, Dailey reported a June 17 incident of road rage in which a man driving westbound on Rt. 7 became enraged by a woman traveling 15 mph below the speed limit. According to Dailey’s report, “for reason only known to [the male driver], [he] felt compelled to express his displeasure that another vehicle had the temerity to drive slower than the posted speed limit by flashing a one finger salute commonly known as ‘flipping the bird.’”
Dailey, a history buff, then gave a paragraph of background on “the middle finger salute”—noting that historians have found it to be a sign of disrespect as long ago as the 4th century B.C. when Greek philosopher Diogenes displayed his “middle digit” to stateman Demosthenes.
“There is no evidence to support that either [Greek man] was operating a chariot during this exchange,” Dailey wrote.
On July 3, Dailey reported a June 28 verbal dispute between a former couple that continued to live together. According to Dailey’s report, the woman brought home a “gentlemen caller.”
“The argument was verbal only, mostly from the male who was upset over unrequited love and the challenging living arrangement,” he wrote.
Dailey said those types of incidents—the ones that end with little consequence—allow him to add in a bit of creativity, which could help to diffuse similar situations in the future.
“I want them to think about the story I told and laugh and let it go,” he said. “I just want people to think about that next time it happens.”
Those types of creative reports are gathering a good deal of positive feedback from residents. Dailey said the number of subscribers to the department’s police reports increased by 58 percent overnight after the June 19 police report—up from 96 to 152 subscribers.
On the Western Loudoun Community Connect Facebook group, one commenter wrote that reports are like reading episodes of Comedy Central’s “Drunk History.” Another commenter wrote that the reports are more than updates on public safety—they also are history lessons and help to enrich vocabulary. Yet another commenter wrote, “I’ve laughed so hard that there are tears in my eyes. I need to sign up for these alerts asap!”
Police Chief Cynthia McAlister said Dailey is able to strike a balance between seriousness and humor in his reports—a balance that can be made in a community that features such a relatively low level of crime.
The National Council for Home Safety and Security earlier this year named Purcellville as the safest community in Virginia in 2020. According to that announcement, the town’s crime rate is a mere 5.85 per 1,000 residents. According to FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics, 59 crimes were reported in the town in 2018—61 crimes fewer than those reported in the town with the next lowest rate.