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Local clergy, Chief of Police respond to spike in violence in Norfolk

Posted at 10:45 PM, Apr 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-26 22:49:56-04

NORFOLK, Va. - If you walked down A Avenue in the middle of the afternoon on Tuesday, you may not have guessed that less than 24 hours before, a 17-year-old was shot.

"Let me tell you something, people in this neighborhood care, the residents in these houses where we're walking, the people sitting on these porches, they care about their families," says Reverend Dr. Kirk Houston of the Gethsemane Community Fellowship. "Where there is high poverty, unfortunately you're going to find crime and often times destructive behavior."

Reverend Dr. Houston walked with NewsChannel 3 through the neighborhood on Tuesday.

"This is a neighborhood where a lot of crime takes place, without question."

The shooting along A Avenue on Monday night was one of four shootings in a span of five hours across the city. It is also right down the street from where a man was shot to death on Friday night.

Reverend Dr. Houston says this is among the worst crime he has seen in Norfolk since he came to the city in 1983.

"The numbers are clear," he says. "We are approaching this matter with a sense of urgency, there are some things that we have to do now."

According to Norfolk Police, there have been 18 homicides in 2016 so far.

Chief Michael Goldsmith says the numbers are up and his department is making changes as a result. He addressed city council on Tuesday.

Among his plans, he says they are deploying their units in a different way, such as putting Special Operations on the street. Additionally, they are beefing up intelligence, so they can step in before crimes happen, which seem to have a trend.

"Young people who get into a dispute and then they decide to solve that with a gun, that's what a lot of these are, or they are attached to another crime such as robbery," he says. "Which means, that's what we have to attack."

Reverend Dr. Houston says the people behind the crimes are not the ones attending events such as the "Call for Prayer and Action" that local clergy hosted on Monday night.

He says that is why they have to come together to find solutions.

"We have to be more visible, we have to show up in our communities," he says. "We want to send a message that we care, that we are concerned about what's going on, that the lives of our people have value and purpose."

Reverend Dr. Houston says a group of local clergy are meeting again on Thursday, May 5th, to finalize some of their plans for addressing the city's violence.