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Attorney General Jason Miyares visits Portsmouth to address crime in city

Jason Miyares Portsmouth crime town hall (July 7).PNG
Posted at 2:20 PM, Jul 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-07 23:12:01-04

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares visited New First Baptist Church to discuss violence in Portsmouth in a town hall Thursday night. His visit comes following an uptick in crime and shootings in the city.

Overnight, there were two late-night shootings where three people were seriously hurt. Portsmouth Police say a shooting happened over on Virginia Avenue just before midnight. When they arrived, they found a man who had been shot in the upper body.

Police later learned another man had walked into a nearby hospital with a gunshot wound. The two are believed to be related.

Another shooting broke out on Wednesday night on I-264 near Victory Boulevard. The victim was rushed to the hospital and is expected to survive.

Former Portsmouth Police Chief Renado Prince was supposed to attend the meeting, but after his sudden firing by City Manager Tonya Chapman just days into her job, the former chief was not in attendance. Instead, Interim Police Chief Stephen Jenkins spoke on the panel.

News 3 reporter Leondra Head caught up with Miyares before the town hall.

"There’s been an uptick in shootings in the City of Portsmouth. What are some of your solutions to address crime?" we asked Miyares.

"The number one thing I hear from law enforcement and around Virginia is, 'Give us designated prosecutors that are going after repeat violent offenders.' That’s exactly what my office is in the process of doing," Miyares said.

Miyares said it was critical for him to come to Portsmouth to hear first-hand what’s going on.

"Tragically, we’ve seen the rise in violent crime in a couple of cities. Portsmouth is one of them. It’s easy to be in a bubble in Richmond. I like to hear directly from people that are in the community and what they are experiencing, and tragically, we’re seeing a lot of victims right now of violent crime," the attorney general tells us.

Related: Gov. Youngkin speaks to News 3 about finding solutions to gun violence in Hampton Roads

Virginia State Police recently stepped in to help Portsmouth Police address crime. Miyares says that’s one way of addressing staffing shortages.

"The state police is one tool in the toolbox. They are critical. We are down so many police officers around the state," Miyares said.

During the town hall, Miyares took notes as Portsmouth’s interim police chief and sheriff addressed concerns in the city. Interim Police Chief Jenkins says it’s going to take the entire community to tackle crime.

"You need to do something. What happened to the community civic leagues and watch programs? What happened to those programs? Let’s get it back. It’s that important," Jenkins said.

Interim Portsmouth Police Chief Stephen Jenkins.PNG
Interim Portsmouth Police Chief Stephen Jenkins speaks at a town hall on violence in Portsmouth on July 7, 2022

Jenkins urges residents of Portsmouth if they see something, say something.

"They are your streets. They are our streets. Let’s take them back from them. Let them go somewhere else," Jenkins said.

Barry Randall, a community activist, hosted the town hall. Randall tells News 3 he hopes the solutions presented in the town hall will help curb crime.

"Portsmouth is the smallest of the seven cities, but yet we are the highest in crime. At this point, it’s beginning to be a epidemic, and I think people need to take it serious. We’ve partnered with the state police on many occasions, but yet the numbers are still climbing, and we need to get some answers as for what can happen," Randall said.

Randall goes on to say that he hopes the City of Portsmouth can find genuine solutions to the ongoing violence.

"Something is just not right," he said. "We've had help from the state police, and there's still an uptick in crime. We're the smallest of the seven cities, and yet it seems like crime is unmanageable in this city."

Virginia State Police say they will continue patrolling the city through summer.

Click here for our full coverage on finding solutions to gun violence in Hampton Roads.