Only On 10: Hampton police chief addresses spike in crime

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Crime concerns are coming from the city’s top cop. He says the department has been investigating back-to-back cases over the last month.

Guns, gangs and drugs are at the center of the division’s focus, according to Chief Terry Sult, who tells 10 On Your Side he can’t point to any one reason for the recent crime wave. There’s been more than one dozen shooting investigations in recent weeks, according to police department records.

“Everyday we have officers on the street who are working overtime just to create more presence, and to put more pressure on those who would do harm in our community,” said Sult. “We are starting to see an increase in violent crime across the board that tends to be youth and tends to be gun-focused.”

Chief Sult says on top of shootings, there’s been armed robberies, thefts from vehicles and drug overdoses. Guns and a heroin epidemic have created a “perfect storm” for criminal activity, says Sult.

“We’re seeing as many deaths from overdoses now on the streets as homicides; that’s very concerning,” said Sult. “We have individuals out there with $200-$300 a day habits who have to support those habits through breaking into cars or rifling through cars.”

The chief says he believes citizens should always be concerned about crime in the community, whether crime rates are high or low. He encourages everyone to be aware of their surroundings and to lock up their homes and cars.

Sult says the biggest problem facing the city of Hampton is a lack of economic development.

“With economic development comes opportunity, comes funding for public safety resources, comes opportunities for jobs and kids.”

Sult says kids and young adults, ages 14-24, commit most of the violent crime in Hampton. He says the city’s crime rate is on track to be higher in 2016 than the previous two years.

To help combat the crime, Sult says city officials recently approved the hire of 10 additional officers. Sult says it will take at least six months before those officers are hired, trained and on the street. The department has also started working with federal and state partners, including the FBI and the ATF, to help alleviate the workload on his already-strapped staff.

Sult says officers and investigators within the department have proven they can still make arrests even with an uptick in criminal activity.

“When we go all hands on deck and we have crime back-to-back, I worry about our operational capacity and the stress it causes on our troops. That’s really when they begin to shine and they show what they are made of,” said Sult, of the dedication of his staff.

Sult says community policing, programs for kids and re-entry programs for those who serve time in jail could also help reduce violent crime.

When asked to give a message to the criminals terrorizing Hampton, Sult said:

“If you pick up a gun, expect to do time. We are coming at you with a full force of local, state and federal resources. Also, at the end of the day, if you want to turn your life around we will stand beside you.”

The chief assures the public the department is doing their part behind-the-scenes and out on the streets to lock criminals up. He says he hopes the public will work with them to bring forward any information that could lead to an arrest.

Anyone with information about any crime can remain anonymous and call the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.

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