Portsmouth Police chief holds forum to address crime, curb gun violence

Portsmouth Police Chief forum (October 27).PNG
Posted at 5:00 PM, Oct 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-28 02:07:31-04

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – Portsmouth Police Chief Renado Prince held a community forum at the Portsmouth Police Training Academy Wednesday night.

The Chief's Forum allowed community members to voice concerns about crime in their neighborhoods and find out what's being done to curb gun violence, especially among teens.

Elliott Hill knows the streets of Portsmouth well. He said the Prentis Park neighborhood is riddled with crime.

As the VP of the nonprofit Prevention, Reform, & Recidivism, Hill spends a lot of time in the neighborhood talking to kids and keeping them from turning to a life of crime.

“I felt like I had to in some way, put my thumb on it, because I wouldn't want no other kid to have to go through what I had to go through

After being locked up for 25 years for a crime he says he didn’t do, and released just this summer, Hill is now speaking up.

“We know knowledge without action is nothing,” Hill said to Chief Prince during the forum.

Hill said city leaders need to step up and take action to curb gun violence.

“Show the community that you willing to step out,” he said. “Show the community that you willing to partner. Show the community that you really care by being there.”

The rise in violent crime was one of the main topics at the forum.

The city's crime index – based on a scale from 1 to 100 – came in at 1, with 100 being the safest numerical value. The crime data from NeighborhoodScout shows the city is safer than only 1% of U.S. cities.

After a surge in violent crime starting this past summer, Chief Prince said officers are stepping up community policing. They’re also working with teens and bringing back programs in schools like D.A.R.E. and connecting them with jobs and grassroots organizations to keep them off the streets and out of trouble.

“We're working at it,” said Prince. “We're trying to engage our community and that's what this is about. Trying to hear what our community wants to say. Let them know what we're doing because it's not just the police. We can't do it alone.”

According to News 3’s gun violence archive, seven lives have been lost to gun violence in the city and there was a total of 12 shootings this month alone.

“You’ve been engaging with the community, leaders?” Crystal Robertson, a lifelong Portsmouth resident, said to the chief. “Where are they? Where are they?”

Chief Prince responded, “I can’t make people show up.”

Community activists Darrell Redmond agreed with Prince saying everyone needs to work together.

“Like he said, we need to get together where we can work together,” said Redmond. “There’s a lot of individualism going on.”

The chief said the force is currently down more than 70 officers, but the department is working quickly to recruit people.

“Basically, we’re hurting but we’re doing pretty good, and yeah, we could use some more people,” he said.

The city’s crime prevention plan to make neighborhoods safer is still being pieced together.

In August, the city introduced the comprehensive plan to curb violence. City leaders say the core issues of crime center around poverty, unemployment, low self-esteem and alcohol and drug abuse.

City Manager Angel Jones said they’re working on long-term solutions now, including implementing a mentorship program and other prevention and intervention programs.
Chief Prince said the full rollout will be in April of 2022.

Hill said that’s too long to wait to break the cycle of violence.

“I have to tip my head to the Portsmouth Police Department on behalf that they are trying,” he said. “We had five homicides in seven days in a city with a residency of 90,000. So that means that it’s an urgent problem. I don't think April shows urgency.”

The chief said he’s also working with the feds to trace guns and hopes to buy a new technology called ShotSpotter to respond to gunfire faster.

Wednesday night was the first Chief Forum Prince held after being sworn into office last month. He said he plans to hold another one soon.

The police training academy is located at 309 Columbia Street in Portsmouth.

Chief's Forum

Related article: Portsmouth Police working to curb gun violence in city after 6 juveniles shot since Oct. 1