NORFOLK, Va. - Gun violence has been impacting Hampton Roads, including Norfolk, for a while.
Barry McClendon Jr. often comes to Norfolk for church. He recalls experiencing gun violence firsthand in the Mermaid City.
“While we were in service, there was a gunshot, gunfire going on,” McClendon told News 3. “I’ve felt the pain people are feeling.”
“I think it’s bad for the community [and] bad for business,” he added.
Michael Kindle has been a Downtown Norfolk business owner on Granby Street for a year, making custom clothes and coffee at Bonaire.
He mentioned after recent gun violence, including the deadly shooting on Granby Street earlier this year, foot traffic downtown has been going up.
“I haven’t seen it deter people from coming out,” Kindle said. “The crowds down here - Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays - have been increasing, I would say.”
Tuesday, Norfolk city leaders met with the New Jersey-based group Newark Community Street Team (NCST) to help cut down on crime.
According to Norfolk officials, this spring, NCST did more than 75 interviews with people and community groups in Norfolk.
The team's report found key areas of improvement: Victim services, school services and housing.
The report also highlighted evidence that a small percentage of people are directly involved in communities with high rates of violence and recommends next steps including the city investing in community-based public safety infrastructure and training for specific groups expected to start in August.
The team has worked with neighborhoods around the country, and said it dropped crime in Newark's South Ward community by 48%.
According to NCST, between 2016 to 2020, the same time period the team has been around Newark, N.J. experienced a record low number of homicides, reaching a six-decade all-time low.
The team hires, trains and deploys outreach workers and high-risk interventionists in areas of the city, including non-traditional community leaders such as those formerly incarcerated and others that have been involved in the drug trade. They support at-risk youth and young adults 14 to 30 years old.
“I think it’s worth taking a look at,” Kindle said. “I also think in communities, you’ve also got to solve your own problems from within, also.”
“I think it’s a good strategy, coming together, having many advisors,” McClendon said.
Baxter Simmons behind Baxter's on Granby Street is also for the partnership.
“Sometimes, there are other people that have figured these things out, and if they’ve done a great job with it, let’s see what their best practices work and see if they can actually fit in to our scenario,” Simmons said.
Both he and Kindle believe more police officers walking downtown streets has also been a big help.
“They have an interaction with each and every individual,” Simmons said. “They also have interactions with the businesses. So, they can see how each security team is operating at each place if anybody needs help on a certain night.”
“I think that ought to be something that is the norm,” Kindle added.