Norfolk police chief talks crime, gangs with 10 On Your Side

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A lot of people are in agreement that crime is a problem in Hampton Roads.

There seems to be no perfect solution to end gun violence, but that doesn’t stop Norfolk’s police chief from making a plea to the public.

Chief Larry Boone’s message came after the deadly Tuesday morning shooting of 18-year-old Anthony Sinclair at the Days Inn on North Military Highway. Hours later, the chief took to social media and the city’s website, demanding that the community step up and do its part.

Norfolk police chief issues renewed call for change in response to violence

In his only television interview on his statement, Chief Boone is echoing that message to 10 On Your Side. He says on a scale of one to 10, our gang problem is a two. But consider this statistic: There have been 21 homicides this year and 14 are gang related. That is 66 percent gang involvement.

During an interview with WAVY’s Andy Fox, Boone confirmed local rap artist Anthony Sinclair was known to police.

“Based on our gang data network, he was a member of a local gang here and that information has been confirmed,” Chief Boone said.

Sinclair’s death led Boone to write the message to the community that there is “public safety cancer… gangs, guns, drugs, violence.”

When asked about that statement, the chief said, “Gang members who knew each other are settling a beef over something said over social media. We have been surgical in making arrests. We have made nine arrests for violent crime.”

Chief Boone’s call to action is for everyone to become partners in fighting the cancer of crime: “Our communities, neighborhoods, families and parents must instill in our youth a sense of ownership for their actions.”

“Owning up to your wrongs,” Boone said. “I think we have gotten so far down the line, people aren’t willing to  accept mistakes.”

The chief grew up in New Jersey public housing and was arrested as a juvenile. He wouldn’t go into details on that, but he once was in charge of the gang suppression unit. He knows what motivates gang members.

“The sensation of fear, power and respect ebb and flow, coming and going, dependent on the current tide,” Chief Boone writes.

“The gang members sense fear, and at the same time, they want to feel empowered and shown respect, and that is their mindset,” the chief explained. “That is their mentality, and we have to find a way to change that.”

He continues in the message to the community, saying that we must change “what appears to be a revolving door of crime and violence” in too many African-American communities.

“There’s a lot of social ills. Our under-served, challenged communities that quite frankly add to those issues. Until we give individuals opportunities of hope, we are going to continue to deal with this,” Boone said.

Boone says we need to fix a generation becoming immune to violence, and too many who have too short a memory. He writes, “What once was a waterfall of firsthand testimony, turns into recanted tales, faded memories and retracted witness statements.”

Boone just wants the information where he is able to connect A, B and C.

“That is happening,” he said. “I don’t want to give the impression that no one talks. That is not accurate. We have folks who give us information all the time. Some are former gang members who have turned their lives around.”

Boone’s final appeal is to the community: “I urge you to get involved in your child’s life. Recognize the signs of criminal behavior, or the cries for help, and take action before it’s too late.”

On parents, Boone told 10 On Your Side, “Their eye may not be where it needs to be, which is on the child. If that is the case, the streets are going to take over. They are going to influence what your child thinks.”

The end of Boone’s statement reads, “The age of tolerance and silence has to end. As a community, we have to invest in our youth to create positive opportunities of hope for their future and the generation to come.”