Members of community in Portsmouth push for change amid increase in gun violence

Posted at 3:17 PM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 18:31:05-04

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Members of the community sounded off at the city council meeting this week, calling for change amid an uptick in gun violence.

Portsmouth isn't alone in seeing an uptick in Hampton Roads, but members of the community say it's particularly concerning because many of the incidents involve young people.

"They are not statistics. I know they have names and faces," Susan Fincke said in an interview with News 3 on Friday. She was one of the speakers on Tuesday.

Fincke is the executive director of Friends of the Portsmouth Juvenile Court, an organization that helps kids who wind up in the court system. In February, she also began Act Now Portsmouth, a group that seeks solutions to gun violence.

"Much of the violence comes in under-resourced communities; high poverty, entrenched poverty, multi-generation poverty communities," said Fincke.

One of her ideas is to have what's called a "violence interrupter" go into neighborhoods and try and stop violence before it happens.

"This is someone with street cred who can go into the community where there is a propensity for gun violence and essentially mediate any incident that might lead to violence," she said.

Darrell Redmond is a former prison inmate who's been doing just that since he got out in 2019. He also addressed the city council this week.

"I'm out in the community. I talk to the youth. I've been in every elementary school, every middle school, every high school, every junior high school to connect and let them know there's somebody who cares for them," Redmond told News 3.

Redmond tries to tell kids they don't have to go down a bad path like he did.

"They have no guidance. They have no leadership. They have no one they can trust, so they get involved in things not even understanding at a young age what they're actually getting involved in," he said.

Portsmouth Vice Mayor De'Andre Barnes has called on the city manager to come out with a plan to address these issues. During a meeting in June, the city manager said it may take up to six months to develop one, saying it would take time to review data.

A city spokesperson said a coalition of community members is meeting now to discuss initiatives and techniques to address the issue. "The creation of a city-wide/strategic plan will not be done in a vacuum, but it will include various sectors of the community in an effort to yield a significant return at reducing crime and gun violence. Unfortunately, this is a nationwide problem, and our response must be methodical, community-based, collaborative, and comprehensive with strategies and solutions to address the overall problems we currently face. The six month time frame is merely a projection," spokesperson Dana Woodson said.

Barnes proposed several long-term solutions, including economic development in these communities, but also has some ideas for the short term.

"What we can do is put quality programs around [neighborhoods with high crime]. We can start with our rec centers being opened on weekends," said Barnes.

Related: Mother of Portsmouth homicide victim works to combat gun violence as incidents rise in Hampton Roads

Both Redmond and Fincke say the city should invest in programs involving people kids can relate to, like Redmond.

"This is everybody's problem. It's not going to be solved overnight because it wasn't created overnight. It's going to take a long concerted effort," said Fincke.