Group confronts council about East End violence

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – Neighbors in the East End of Newport News say violence has become the norm, and they’re tired of living in fear. Now a civil rights group is petitioning city council to declare the crime a crisis and hold leaders accountable.

Newport News City Council meeting, April 8, 2014. (WAVY/Jason Marks)
Newport News City Council meeting, April 8, 2014. (WAVY/Jason Marks)

There have been five shootings in the last week — one Tuesday evening that left 79-year-old Clinton Jackson dead in the driver’s seat of a vehicle. Another last week left a city council candidate‘s SUV riddled with bullets. In January, 71-year-old Joseph Williams, Jr. was hit by a stray bullet during what police think was a shootout. Williams, a deacon, had just left church and was picking up dinner for his family.

“I’m just wondering when it is going to end. What is it going to take for it to stop?” said resident Carla Ash.

Newport News Police told WAVY.com they are doing whatever they can to try and combat the violence. They said their normal gang and device units, which usually roam the whole city, are now really focused on the East End.

But that isn’t enough of a response for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which asked council members to declare a “State of Emergency” for the city at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

Civil Rights Group at council meeting“There is a leadership issue, and the leadership starts with the mayor, and he has to take accountability,” Andrew Shannon with SCLC told WAVY.com.

Before the meeting, Shannon described violence and crime in the city as an emergency, a crisis. He said public officials and city leaders need to be taking proactive measures with issues of crime and public safety, like reducing police response time for emergency calls. Instead, he insinuated, officials have responded with “political gimmicks” and that the mayor hasn’t taken responsibility.

“We are concerned about crime, we are concerned about violence, and we are concerned about accountability. It begins with the Mayor of Newport News,” Shannon said during the meeting.

Mayor McKinley Price talked to WAVY.com after the meeting and addressed what seemed like accusations of apathy: “I live in the southeast, and have been there all my life. To say that I’m not concerned enough to try to do something about violence is ludicrous to me.”Norfolk City Council

Price said the city spent more than $2 million to create a gang initiative that it hopes will curve the crime. However, he admitted it will take some time.

Document: Newport News gang initiative

“Homicides happen anywhere and everywhere in this city, and one is too many,” he said.

“It’s going to take us taking a stand and reminding the city that they cannot minimize these issues of what’s going on,” Shannon said.

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