NORFOLK, Va. – This week alone, there have been at least 12 shootings across Hampton Roads, mostly among young people. Three shootings this week were deadly. The latest homicides happened Thursday night.
Community advocate Stacey Robinson joined U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Norfolk leaders Thursday at Attucks Theatre to talk about the surge in gun violence sweeping across Hampton Roads.
Growing up in the City of Norfolk, Robinson said gun violence was all around him. His father was shot and killed when he was a baby.
While behind bars for dealing drugs, Robinson found out his 22-year-old son was also killed by gunfire.
Robinson said violent crime among young people today has spun out of control.
“You have a gang element here that wasn’t really here when I was on the street,” he said.
Robinson said breaking the cycle means investing in communities and young men.
“We need better housing, better employment, better training to reach the community of young guys that are committing the acts of violence,” he said. “I believe we can change the economical conditions we can change the circumstances.”
Healthcare workers see the crisis up close, saving the lives of shooting victims who often come into the hospital more than once.
“There has been a huge uptick in the last two years in this community, and it has all of us wondering what's going on,” said Dr. Jay Collins who is the Medical Director of the trauma unit at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. “We need to realize that violence like this is a disease. We can sew you up and patch you up, send you home but if we send you right back to the same environment you came from, whether it's no job, poor housing, poor social network at home, the same disease is bound to happen.”
Norfolk leaders weighed in on possible solutions. Police Chief Larry Boone said he’s forming a regional task force based in Norfolk to curb gun crime.
“You have to stop the sources of guns,” Boone said.
Senator Kaine said he’s working on the hill to bring more funding to communities for programs to help keep teens from turning to a life of crime.
“If we can develop and direct some of the workforce funds to populations that are in poor communities or that are suffering, particularly from gun violence, we might be able to help convince some of these young people hey there's a better path for me,” said Kaine.
Leaders said they’re hopeful and determined to put an end to gun violence.
“We’ve got mental health needs; we need to have different policing strategies and build tighter ties between police and communities,” Kaine said. “We have to treat gun violence as a public health issue and bring some public health, not just law enforcement strategies to it. Gun violence is driven by isolation. It’s driven by despair, driven by people who don't feel like there's a path for them. We have to create paths to jobs and education to be connected in the community that anybody can see. If you can see that positive path for yourself, most often you’re not going to turn to violence.”