A look at teen crime in Hampton Roads and what we can do to prevent it

Boys & Girls Clubs of the Virignia Peninsula.PNG
Posted at 5:11 PM, Apr 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-22 18:17:56-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Five teens were arrested last weekend in connection with an armed carjacking in Newport News, and one 14-year-old was arrested in Hampton for an armed robbery. We’re taking a look at teen crime in Hampton Roads and what we can do to prevent it.

“They hurt themselves; they hurt this community; and they hurt their parents the people that love them and their brothers and sisters,” said Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew.

We’ve heard about it recently in Hampton Roads - juveniles getting involved in violent crime.

“A lot of times, it’s that they really don’t have much to do, and they’re not in school; they don’t work; and they’re hanging out with the wrong crowd, and they get involved with violence as a result of that,” said Valeria Mitchell, the director of a trauma program at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

A program at Sentara Norfolk called Foresight is trying to steer teens who have been involved in violence onto a different path by providing life coaching, mental house counseling, resources to get GEDs and more.

“A lot of these patients have never even thought about having a plan for their life because they see so much gun violence they think they’re lucky to have made it as far as they have made it,” Mitchell said.

But how do we move past the intervention stage and focus on prevention? That’s where programs like the Boys & Girls Club come in.

“The idea is if we start with our kids, hopefully we can change the cycle of what we are seeing today,” said Hal Smith, the president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula.

Smith says they accept kids ages 6-18 for after-school care and summer programs. He says the clubs are typically located in areas where kids may not have any other opportunities.

“We provide that safe place for kids to go - a place to engage in educational programs, character and leadership programs; healthy lifestyle programs,” Smith said.

Chief Drew says that’s one of the goals – redirection. He says it’s a community effort.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility – it’s the police department; it’s our schools; it’s our individuals who live in neighborhoods; it’s parents; it’s different entities; it’s our churches; it’s our juries, our judge and our Commonwealth’s attorneys. All of us play a role in saying, ‘We’re not tolerating that.’”

He also says regardless of the age of the offender, there are consequences.

“This is not a video game. It’s not some game that you’re playing and you get to hit ‘pause’ and start over - these are real-life situations, and if you’re going to play in that world, the mistakes you make can cost you a life in prison or your life itself,” the chief said.

Related: Portsmouth youth football league aims to curb violence, keep kids on a positive path