NORFOLK, Va. - Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander delivered the State of the City address on Thursday afternoon amid upheaval in the police department.
On Wednesday, City Manager Chip Filer announced Chief Larry Boone was retiring this month, but is leaving the position this week.
Alexander's address also comes at a time when there are concerns about crime downtown and across the city. Police tried to step up patrols following a shooting on Granby Street that killed two people in March. Then, this past weekend three people were shot inside of MacArthur Center. One of the victims in that shooting died.
Alexander didn't shy away from addressing gun violence, touching on it early on in his speech. "Today, we are experiencing the same tenor of violence that is occurring in America's largest cities," he told members of the business community.
Norfolk saw 62 homicides in 2021 and has seen 17 so far in 2022, according to the department.
Alexander said there are immediate strategies to reduce crime, including increasing police presence and enforcing codes to make sure restaurants are following the rules.
"Public safety is not just the requirement of the city and our law enforcement," he said. "It is a whole community approach that's required for sustained reductions in violence."
Alexander also wished Chief Boone well during the speech. "Larry's retirement certainly caught a lot of us by surprise," he said afterwards.
After talking about gun violence, Alexander touched on several positives going on in the city, including a proposed new apartment building across from Scope Arena. News 3 asked Alexander whether he's worried crime concerns are overshadowing the positives.
"I don't think gun violence is overshadowing any of the positive announcements that were made, but we certainly have to address gun violence," he answered.
Part of the strategy is address the shortage of police officers in the city, currently down more than 200 officers. Alexander says in the proposed budget would give every city employee a 5-percent raise. In addition, police officers and firefighters with more than six years of experience would get an additional pay bump.
During a budget hearing Wednesday night, several police officers said the proposal is not enough.
"What would you say to them?" News 3 asked.
"I think there is more that we can do," Alexander answered. "We're starting this process. this is a proposal and not the final budget."