Portsmouth City Manager: 'The city is doing all it can to curtail gun violence'

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Posted at 12:11 PM, Dec 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-17 17:21:39-05

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Portsmouth City Manager Angel Jones gets a text message from the police chief any time there's a shooting in the city.

On Friday morning, her phone buzzed again, this time notifying her four people were shot overnight.

"Any day there is not a shooting is a good day for me, and any day we do have a shooting is something that I try to do better to avoid," Jones told News 3 in an interview Friday about crime in the city.

Portsmouth has seen an uptick in homicides in 2021 compared with 2020. On Tuesday, neighbors spoke in front of the city calling on the city to do more to address gun violence.

"The city is doing all it can do to curtail gun violence in the city. We're using every means possible," she said.

Jones said the police department is targeting high-crime areas with more patrols but is hampered by more than 80 vacancies in the department.

"It impacts us, but it doesn't stop us. We find creative ways to get around that. We prioritize those things that have the most impact and we take it from there," she said.

Earlier this year, Jones and other city leaders unveiled a three pillar plan to fight crime in the city. It includes addressing the root causes of crime, developing an effective and safe staff, and crime fighting strategies - like adding lighting to dark areas and allocating police officers to areas with high crime.

"Would you say reducing crime and gun violence is your number one priority as city manager?" News 3 asked Jones. "Absolutely, crime is always the number one priority in terms of how we reduce it and how we eradicate it," she answered.

Jones says the city continues to review the crime fighting plan, including determining the best areas to send officers. "Do you think the plan is working?" News 3 asked her. "Parts of it are definitely working. Parts of it we're going to tweak. As I said, it's a living document," she said.

Jones said she is passionate about figuring this out. She's been meeting with neighborhood civic leagues to build trust.

She even had the city help pay the rent of a mom who spoke at Tuesday's meeting. Shannon Carmack said she had to take time off of work after her daughter was shot in the head. She was having trouble making ends meet, so the city used some left over COVID relief funds to assist her.

"I just think that goes a long way to saying we are serious, we are committed, and we're with you," she said.

She says she's not letting any staffing issues stop her. "It doesn't stop us. We find creative ways to get around it. We prioritize those things that have the most impact and take it from there," she said.

Jones said the city is also considering investing in technology that can help identify locations where shots are fired, called ShotSpotter. The city could move forward with the technology early next year.