PORTSMOUTH, Va. – The surge in gun violence in Portsmouth is prompting city leaders to take action. City council members held a special meeting at City Hall Tuesday night to talk about the crime and how to curb it.
Hector Stallins can’t help but let his emotions take over when it comes to crime.
“Something is wrong with you if you can’t talk about this and something in your heart don’t want to explode,” said Stallins.
He’s lived in Portsmouth all his life and said he’s tired of young kids dying on the streets from guns who will never having a chance to grow up.
“The future is dying in this city right here,” Stallins said. “Kids can’t even come up. The next computer genius, the next person that’s supposed to find the cure for whatever is going on, is dying in this city right here, and it don’t seem like nobody care.”
Tuesday night’s special city council meeting focused on cracking down on crime.
Mayor Shannon Glover said councilmen Chris Woodard, Dr. Mark Whitaker and Vice-Mayor De’Andre Barnes called the meeting.
“Crime, the reduction of crime is a shared responsibility, and we take it all extremely, very seriously,” Glover said.
Portsmouth Sheriff Michael Moore suggested moving forward with a federal program that’s expanded over the years.
It’s now known as "Operation Legend," where the FBI, DEA and other federal agents partner with local law enforcement to take back the streets.
The sheriff said it wouldn’t cost the city anything, but they all need to work together and knock off the pettiness.
"We cannot afford to keep pushing a 'reset' button,” Moore said. “We cannot afford to keep having a revolving door of key positions in this city to be vacant. Take the personal stuff out of it. This is business. The citizens are tired of it.”
Mayor Glover said the city is also pushing forward with another federal program called Project Safe Neighborhoods. It focuses on four principles to make the city safer: Community engagement; prevention and intervention; strategic enforcement; and accountability.
“The reason why we wanted to use this federal program, because it’s been successful in a number of communities – Richmond, Detroit, Baltimore,” said Glover.
Police said there have been a total of nine homicides since the start of the year. Last month alone, seven people were shot and killed in the city.
The latest shooting happened on Sunday. A 71-year-old man has been arrestedin connection to the murder of Crystal Jacobs, 37.
“I don’t sleep at night because I worry about the officers; I worry about the citizens,” said Police Chief Renado Prince.
Chief Prince is on board with the programs, stressing curbing crime is a process and that it won’t happen overnight.
“I took the playbook out, and I ripped the pages out,” he said. “I’m retyping it and I’m coming up with different things. Will it work? Yeah, it will.”
Stallins is hopeful but says he just wants action now, adding he’s tired of the lip service.
“They’re trying. One thing I can say is they are trying,” he said. “Maybe the Lord might touch somebody in leadership and give them the answers to be able to put something in order to stand on something for real and not just 1,000 meetings that ain’t nothing coming good out of them.”
City leaders said the federal programs would bring in extra resources and have a wider reach to be successful.
Mayor Glover told News 3, the Project Safe Neighborhoods Program is a three-year program, which is needed to truly change behaviors. So far, the city has formed a working group made up of different stakeholders.
The mayor said he’s hoping to have the program up and running by June. He said the city is still looking for ways to fully pay for it. They plan on using a $500,000 state grant and are also applying for other state and federal grants.
As for Operation Legend, Sheriff Moore said he plans to head to Washington, D.C. soon to speak with federal agencies directly and get the program started.
The day before the meeting, Vice Mayor De’Andre Barnes told News 3 one of the main issues they’re facing is the lack of funding for grassroots organizations that he says are key to fighting crime.
In the past, the city has mentioned it’s working on a crime prevention plan to make neighborhoods safer. The police chief told News 3 he hopes to have that rolled out in April.