NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Authorities in Newport News and Hampton met with members of the media Tuesday to discuss a recent string of violent crimes on the Peninsula.
There have been several shootings between both cities in recent weeks, including nearly half a dozen fatalities.
Two men were killed Nov. 18 in a shooting on Glascow Way in Hampton.
Police have also responded to additional reports of robberies and assaults within the past two weeks.
Despite the crime, Chief Richard Myers of Newport News says the public should not focus on the recent shooting count, but should look at the overall picture.
“Clearly nothing affects the psyche of the community in terms of the perception of safety like a series of homicides,” Myers said. “But sometimes, we get caught up a little bit with body counts more than underlying causes and patterns and trends.”
Myers and Hampton Police Chief Terry Sult said their cities are no less safe, in spite of recent crime.
“It’s unfair to paint the community broadly with a brush of violence when in reality, we have a finite number of people in the community who seem to always be involved in the violence.”
Myers and Sult agreed that most shootings in their cities involve young men, many who already know each other.
“We consistently find prior relationships and links between the offenders and the victims. In some cases, we have victims that were shot previously that are shot again and yet in both cases they refuse to cooperate or provide the police any information,” Myers explained.
Sult emphasized that combating the gun violence will be a “marathon” that requires all of the community to participate.
“Those who are out there robbing and shooting today, what are their siblings seeing? What is the norm? We have an opportunity to break that cycle, but we have to have community collaboration to break that cycle.”
They say they’ve seen success with programs that target young students, and collaborations with faith based leaders have helped, as well. But, they are concerned about the number of young people involved in gang violence and they need loved ones to speak up before the situation escalates to a shooting, or an arrest.
“Let’s be fair to a lot of parents, they’re afraid of their own kids. We hear from family members who say, ‘I know my son is running in a gang and carrying a gun, but I’m afraid to intervene. I don’t know what he’ll do with me.'”
Myers said that’s exactly why the police department is partnering with the faith communities — so people can speak to their pastors in a setting where they may feel more comfortable.
Chief Myers said people resort to gun violence too quickly.
“We can’t arrest our way out of this. We need the community’s support to end gun violence.”
Chief Sult agreed, saying police need the community to hold individuals accountable who are using guns.