Police captain on battling East End gun violence

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Tuesday night’s shooting on 33rd Street makes seven in eight days in the Southeast Precinct for Newport News Police. The precinct Captain told said you can compare that to 10 shootings in the previous 10 weeks.

Captain Keith Hartman sat down with WAVY News’ Anita Blanton to talk about gun violence in the East End. He said officers find guns during almost every traffic stop in his precinct, and he and other city leaders are serious about making that change.

“Not all Newport News is bad, and even the Southeast community is not bad,” Hartman said. “We have a small pocket of people that give everybody a bad name. Everywhere you go, it seems like somebody’s got a gun. So officers have to be extra careful about how they approach people and how they talk to them and try to figure out who’s a bad guy and who’s not a bad guy.”

The Southeast Precinct is staffed with 70 officers every day, which may not be as many as you’d think or that they need for what they are up against. So, what’s being done to turn things around?

For 10 weeks after Deacon Joseph Williams was killed in January, officers worked overtime, increasing their presence in the area where he was shot — and the violence dropped. They’ve also scattered cameras in hot spots, one even giving them clues into Deacon Clinton Jackson’s murder Tuesday night. But they need all the help they can get.

“I get a daily report about what the officers have done over the last 24 hours, and inevitably, two or three of the bits of the report are that we’ve taken a gun either out of a car or off of a person,” Hartman said. “We try to initiate programs as quickly as we can when we see these violent pockets pop up for us. Our overall goal in our community policing and partnership initiative is to get everyone to work together and trust each other for the common good.”

He said his precinct is willing to put in the work for the people they’re sworn to protect and serve. One long-term option they’re hoping to start next month is beat planning where officers will be specifically assigned to designated areas. There’s also a new $2 million City initiative aimed to curb youth and gang violence.

“It won’t be a quick fix for any of these things, but I think in the long term, I think our goal is to keep these kids out of trouble, keep them out of juvenile detention, keep them out of courts,” Hartman said. “And if we do that, with some nurturing and guidance, I think we can get to where we want to get to eventually.”

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