Norfolk mayoral candidates differ on how to address crime

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Several shootings and a murder investigation in Norfolk over the weekend led to calls for more police officers.

Sheriff Bob McCabe said residents are at risk because there aren’t enough officers on the streets.

“We’re not that unsafe a city but there’s a perception that we are,” Sheriff McCabe said.

City Councilman and Norfolk Mayoral Candidate Andy Protogyrou said, “He’s playing politics over tragedy is what he’s doing.” He continued, “His plans are, ‘I love babies and unicorns.’”

During an interview Sheriff McCabe told 10 On Your Side’s Brandi Cummings, “I think our priority on where we’ve been spending our money needs to change.”

Sheriff McCabe sent a news release calling for more funding for the police department to fill vacancies. “I think that the city needs to look at prioritizing to fill those positions maybe before there’s other budget items that they’re going to spend money on,” he said.

Sheriff McCabe said he believes vacancies on the police department are purposely unfilled to save the city money. However, Protogyrou said that’s not true. “There are no unfunded or left open positions to make budget. The city has never done it with regards to its police funding,” he said.

Sheriff McCabe said residents are put at risk because of the vacancies. According to him, when officers are pulled from a neighborhood to address crime in another, some communities are left vulnerable. “It’s concerning when the police department is not fully staffed. If they were then I think that we’d be able to address those things when they do come up,” he said.

Protogyrou told Cummings the crime problems should be addressed with young people themselves. “If you can show opportunity then we can save some of the children that are involved in any of the problems that we have,” he said.

Senator Kenny Alexander is also in the race for Mayor. Although he was in Richmond, he spoke to Cummings over the phone late Monday afternoon.

“If there are additional needs in equipment and resources…that request should come from the current police chief and the city manager, not from someone be it myself or anyone else who is using a misfortunate situation such as the loss of life to call or single out at this particular time,” Senator Alexander said.

The following release was sent out by the McCabe Team:

After another crime wave over the weekend, Sheriff Bob McCabe is calling for city hall to fully fund the Norfolk police department.

“The Norfolk Police Department and Chief Goldsmith are doing the best that they can, but they don’t have enough resources. At any given point, we have about 50 vacancies in our police department,” Sheriff McCabe said.

Just this past weekend, there were three shootings in Norfolk, one of which left a man dead. Recently, Norfolk earned the ranking of top 30 cities in the nation for murders.

“Having vacancies is a way to save money for the city, but it’s putting our residents at risk for violent crimes. It’s our responsibility as leaders to fund public safety to ensure that all of our neighborhoods are safe,” Sheriff McCabe stressed.

Because Norfolk doesn’t have enough officers, police use the “hot spot” policing tactic. When there is a crime wave in one neighborhood, they pull officers from other parts of the city to address the problem. This leaves other neighborhoods not fully staffed and susceptible to crime.

Sheriff McCabe believes that if Norfolk was able to hire the proper amount of police officers, the department could boost its diversity among officers and community policing efforts. This would allow officers to proactively build relationships in neighborhoods to help prevent crime.

“For too long, city hall has valued spending millions of dollars on development projects, but they’ve neglected our foundation, our schools and public safety. It’s time for Norfolk to reprioritize its spending. If we’re really trying to attract families and businesses to choose Norfolk, we’ve got to be a safe city,” Sheriff McCabe said.

Now is the time to address this problem because city council is in the midst of putting the budget together, which will be approved this spring.

Lori Crouch with the City of Norfolk released the following statement in response:

City leadership fully supports the Norfolk Police Department and ensures our officers receive the resources and training opportunities needed to serve the community.

The Police Department does not have vacancies due to a lack of funding.  On average the Department carries approximately 20 -25 vacancies.  The vacancies are due in part to officers transitioning from law enforcement, retiring from the City, and cross-over from an average of two recruiting classes a year.

“Hot spot policing” is a nationally-recognized policing strategy which addresses crime by assigning limited resources to specific areas.  However, “hot spot policing” is not related to staffing needs.  As well, it is important to clarify that additional support to one neighborhood does not diminish support or resources for the other neighborhoods.

A recent report inaccurately ranked the City of Norfolk in the top 30 cities in the nation for murders.  The data used compared the City of Norfolk to a county.  Most counties include multiple jurisdictions.  Norfolk is an independent city.  Comparing Norfolk to other cities in size and population is more accurate which this report did not do.  Chief Goldsmith recent Council presentation provided a 10-15 year trend which shows murder rate is in decline.

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