About one month before Fredericksburg police raided Otter House, one of the co-owners of the nightclub had been emailing Police Chief David Nye to ask about ways he could reduce the number of incidents that required police to respond to the business at 1005 Princess Anne St.
Fredericksburg Patch also learned that the police chief provided Stephen Cameli with a list of arrested persons that Cameli was reviewing and preparing to provide to the nightclub's hired security team before the raid happened.
But after that correspondence in June, the police department had no more interaction with either of the two owners of the Otter House, and on July 27 investigators raided the business after a seven-month investigation into alleged drug dealing at an apartment next to Otter House at 1009 Princess Anne St. and at least one customer inside the nightclub nicknamed "Smoke." The search turned up two narcotic pain pills in a green plastic bag, a smoking device in an office and another smoking device and a small amount of marijuana in an outside alley next to the nightclub. A week later, Cameli and co-owner Paul Stoddard were charged with the misdemeanor charge of keeping a common nuisance.
On June 22, Cameli emailed Fredericksburg Police Chief David Nye asking if he would provide a list of names of possible troublemakers for Otter House so that he could take action.
Chief Nye provided a list of arrestees and on June 25, Cameli wrote the chief again saying that he agrees that prevention is the key in helping reduce the number of incidents at Otter House. Since Aug. 15, 2011, police responded to the nightclub 52.5 times that required a written report of the incident—the most of any nightclub in town.
"Identifying potential problem individuals before they enter the premise will be a invaluable resource for us," Cameli wrote the chief.
Cameli also said that he has spoken to other nightclub owners about an idea of having two officers visit the nightclubs Thursday through Saturday and suggested to the chief that the police department's goal could be to form a friendly, positive relationship with the management, security and staff of the restaurants.
"They would provide a visual deterrent and would be able to gather information on potential problem individuals by stopping by the restaurants to see how things are going," Cameli wrote. "The officers would also work as liaisons between the restaurants. I would love to talk more about this idea and would be willing to help in anyway possible."
Fredericksburg Police Department spokeswoman Natatia Bledsoe said that Cameli and the chief also had a phone conversation in which Cameli said he would ban the known offenders from his business, but there was no follow-up on the idea of having officers patrolling downtown on foot and visiting nightclubs more frequently as a community policing initiative. Neither the chief nor any police officer visited with the co-owners after the emails were exchanged to follow up with them.
Bledsoe said the police department decided against moving forward with Cameli's suggestion because the department already does the following:
- Have a patrol work schedule that has been tailored to provide the most effective coverage for the entire city.
- Have officers working the same patrol zone on a long-term and consistent basis. (The same officers work downtown but the days they work rotate.)
- Have a Community Police Officer assigned downtown.
- Host “Managing the Nightlife” seminars for employees of nightclubs to learn how to mitigate problems associated with bars and the sale of alcohol.
- Identify “hot spots” in the city and concentrate patrol efforts on those areas that are known to require more frequent police intervention.