Community members, law enforcement discuss gun violence prevention

Posted at 2:02 PM, Sep 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-07 16:41:48-04

NORFOLK, Va. - In a striking moment Tuesday morning during a roundtable discussion about preventing gun violence in Hampton Roads, Eugene Swinson shared the story of recently picking up a 16-year-old for a job.

"I picked a kid up to do a job, and he came to the car with a gun on him. He's 16 years old," said Swinson, who's the president of Big H.O.M.I.E.S. Community Outreach. The organization tries to intervene and help kids from getting involved in gangs with things like day jobs.

"I told him, 'You don't need that today. You don't need that today.' His attitude from the time he got into the car to the time he did the job - he turned into a kid again," said Swinson. "I only had him for three hours."

Swinson and other community leaders say kids these days need mentors they can relate to and activities to keep them busy, all of which need funding.

Community leaders, elected officials and law enforcement gathered Tuesday morning in Norfolk for the discussion.

"I just feel like if we get a lot of opportunities for these kids, then you'll see the kid in them," said Swinson.

Nationwide and in Hampton Roads, gun violence has been a problem over the summer. Portsmouth Police Chief Renado Prince says it takes more than just arresting people or seizing guns.

"We can show you a full table of guns, and then where are we going from there?" asked Prince.

Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone says efforts need to be made to stop the flow of illegal guns and also have community members intervene.

"I think that's the approach - starting from each end and working yourself to the middle," said Boone.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring organized the event to hear from the community about how his office can help.

"It's very complex. It's going to require a comprehensive community-wide response," he said.

Related: Summer surge in gun violence prompting Portsmouth city leaders to take action

As the violent summer ends, Chief Boone says Hampton Roads has no choice but to do something.

"It's too early to tell whether things are getting better, but my God, we have no choice for things to get better," said Boone.