PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Since taking over as head of the department in September, Police Chief Renado Prince said programs and other steps taken have reduced crime in Portsmouth overall by 14% last year.
Since the start of 2022, however, the city has seen a big jump in violent crime. According to police, crime increased by more than 50% compared to this same time last year.
“I’m worried about the safety of my officers and what they might have to do to defend themselves and others,” said Prince.
Still, Prince said the crime-fighting plans, working with boots-on-the-ground organizations and violence interrupters, are making a difference.
“It’s a hard measure, and I hate to say that because right now it’s quiet, so they have had an impact,” he said. “What we’re doing is working, but it’s not going to fix the problem overnight. We still have a way to go.”
The chief said he’s rewriting the playbook, trying new things to crack down on gun violence. He believes partnering with federal agencies on new intervention initiatives, including Project Safe Neighborhoods and Group Violence Intervention (GVI), is key.
“Federal sentences compared to a local sentence are generally much more harsh,” Prince said.
But the force is down 74 officers - a slight improvement from 80 just a few weeks ago.
However, Prince said he’s making do with what he’s got by shifting people to beef up the patrol and investigation divisions.
A big focus right now is recruitment and retention.
“If you want to make a change, I’m hiring,” said Prince.
He adds, changing the culture of policing and building trust with the community will lead to a drop in the crime rate.
“It’s all about dialogue,” Prince said. “If people don’t trust us, they won’t call us. If people don’t trust us, they won’t tell us. So, it’s a common ground we have to reach and that’s what we’re working on.”
The chief also said the force will soon be teaming up with the Chesapeake Police Department to use a software program called NIBIN. They’re already sharing the technology with Norfolk Police. NIBIN allows investigators to process shell casings faster and put criminals behind bars.