HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — City leaders across Hampton Roads are working together to take back the community.
Gun violence is a threat to every neighborhood and will require collaboration and cooperation to make our streets safer.
On Thursday, Hampton Roads Mayors and Chief Administrative Officers discussed public safety priorities. They’re coming together to find solutions not only on ways to prevent crime, but to stop violence before it occurs.
“I’m convinced that our region is going to come to the plate and we are going to really start dealing with the problems of violence,” said Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer.
Many cities in Hampton Roads are seeing some of the same issues; rise in violence, trouble recruiting police officers, and the need for more mental health resources in the region.
“We recognize that in order for cities to reduce crime and violence, we have to work together collaboratively,” said Portsmouth Mayor Shannon Glover.
Mayors and City Managers from all over Hampton Roads are working to find solutions to address rising violence among the seven cities.
One of the big topics discussed is the need for more police officers.
The City of Norfolk is one of the cities experiencing an officer shortage and when one of those officers has to transport a person dealing with a mental health crisis, it takes resources off the streets.
“We’re already understaffed and having our officers spending maybe upwards of three days with folks as we are trying to find beds for them in other state facilities is really taxing on us right now,” said Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer.
The group discussed some solutions to help, like making it easier to bring back retired police officers and asking the state to help provide more mental health resources and staff to take some temporary detention order responsibilities off local departments. Chesapeake Mayor Rick West says local hospital staff are concerned too.
“They are very volatile and many of our hospital staff have been injured,” said Mayor West.
Portsmouth City Manager Tonya Chapman is a former officer and suggested finding ways to pay retired officers or off-duty officers overtime to help transport those patients to facilities.
“Whether it’s DCJS certified security or additional payments for off-duty police officers so you aren’t taking away from officers on the street,” said Chapman.
Virginia Beach isn’t seeing as big of an officer shortage as other cities in Hampton Roads are experiencing.
They say community engagement and de-escalation are key in their response, but there’s still more work to be done in reaching today’s youth. The group discussed incorporating conflict resolution and mediation skills into local school districts.
“The bullies that are in the schools now are going to be in the workforce when they get out of school and once again we’ll have a better society if we can get into the schools and teach kids there’s a better way than reacting with each other,” said Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer.
City officials believe it’s especially important to work together to make Hampton Roads a safer place.
“We need to rely on those types of resources to understand the challenges that we face as a region and as a community,” said Mayor Glover.
The group voted to endorse these legislative statements and work to make a change at the capitol. They plan to meet again on October 20.