Portsmouth mayor, city officials address violence in news conference

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Portsmouth Mayor Kenny Wright, backed by dozens of city officials, addressed the public’s concerns over rising violence and crime across the city in a news conference Thursday.

The news conference comes on the heals of a protest rally that was held outside of City Hall on Wednesday. People at the protest called for a change in city leadership.

In his address to the media and about 100 people in attendance, Mayor Wright said, “Positive change can only happen with a diverse team of people working side-by-side.”

The news conference also served as a launching point for a new campaign called “Violence and Crime Reversal Community Engagement Campaign,” which will seek to engage the community in addressing violence and getting information to police about reported crimes.

“We’re standing here today united, saying enough is enough,” said Mayor Wright. “By reversal, I mean a U-Turn, I mean a complete turn around.”

WAVY/Joe Fisher
WAVY/Joe Fisher

Wright did not take questions from the media during Thursday’s press conference. Even his supporters are critical of Wright’s methods.

“There is a certain protocol that he has, and once he sets his protocol he’s not going to change,” said Kintrell Devin, who lives in Portsmouth.

Interim Police Chief Dennis Mook also spoke to the crowd and said that reducing crime is a “community-wide effort.”

“I would love to be able prevent homicides, but the very nature of how most homicides occur make that almost impossible,” said Chief Mook. “Most occur randomly behind closed doors or somewhere where we have no idea where they are coming, spur of the moment … We have to realize we will never arrest our way out of crime and violence.”

In 2015, Portsmouth recorded 27 homicides, which is up from 11 in 2014 and eight in 2013.

Mook told 10 On Your Side Thursday he does not believe the numbers from 2015 are not “out of the ordinary.” He says that crime goes in trends and waves.

Residents tell WAVY.com they hope to hear more from city leaders in 2016. City leaders say they expect more from the community.

“Someone always wants to point their finger,” said Mook. “‘You need to do something, you need to do something, someone does.’ It’s never ‘What can I do? What can I bring to the table.’ If we don’t have that nothing will change.”

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