NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your Side has continued our efforts to bring our viewers the stories of those who are working to take back the Hampton Roads community from trouble and crime.
It is an effort we have taken seriously for the past three years. You may remember the stark reality of where we were going with it and the faces and names of men and women — who’ve been victims of violent crime. Over the last three years, we’ve found that our community agrees and many have worked to make the community a better place too.
Our Taking Back the Community initiative kicked off three years ago with the faces of 66 Hampton Roads residents who were victims of violence. They include sons, daughters, fathers and mothers who have lost their lives in our community.
Many residents in those communities tell tales of the constant violence they see. Many tell us they are afraid to leave their homes for fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Sheila Maith is a resident of Newport News who told us the crime is too high where she lives.
“Sometimes it could be quiet, it could be peaceful sometimes and sometimes it could be like the O.K. Corral,” Maith said.
Faces like these have spurred change, pushing our neighbors to take back the community, including Cameron Bertrand. Bertrand found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time when he was shot in the leg after a local homecoming college game.
He used his negative experience to spur change and became a director with the Boys and Girls Club, and later started his own organization: Violence Intervention and Prevention.
“It’s a war out there. It’s a war. Let’s bring back that sense of a village,” Bertrand said. “We are bringing back that sense of a village and know that our youth have the support they need and they can know they have the support that they can go out be a part of a life changing experience.”
This includes Camari McGill, 16, who is mentored by Bertrand and is now using that knowledge to help other children. McGill opened up about why he reached out to Bertrand for advice.
McGill says his father abandoned him at a young age.
“It’s like a double edge sword in the heart, it’s like getting physically hurt but you can’t see the wound, it’s like lemon juice and salt mixed together in a wound,” McGill said. “Growing up, I was abandoned by my father because I was diagnosed with autism.”
McGill ran away from home several times and admits that things have been rough a lot in his life. McGill met Bertrand at the Boys and Girls Club in Newport News. He says Bertrand brought hope back into his life.
“We will have fun; I never had fun with anyone before. He’s like my dad,” McGill said.
From people to programs, 10 On Your Side shared the story of: The Lucky 8.
The program started two years ago when a Newport News father took eight kids under his wing. He made sure they kept out of trouble.
“More and more kids started coming,” said Lucky 8 founder Deon Harris.
The group evolved into an after-school program. It gives young people something to do.
“I look forward to getting out of the house and coming to see these people here,” added 14-year-old Amanasia Johnson.
Over the years more than 100 teenagers have been members of Lucky 8.
“If there were more programs like this I think less people would be getting killed right now,” Lucky 8 Member Donneil Payne added. “There are a lot of people getting killed around here and they are getting killed by people who have free time to go do that stuff.”
From community members to those who serve them in uniform, 10 On Your Side shared the story of Norfolk Police Chief Larry D. Boone addressing recent youth gun violence after a series of tragic events in the area involving minors.
Boone emphasized how local youth are using more dangerous methods to solve arguments and disputes among themselves. Boone says that Hampton Roads has a gun problem, but in the last couple of years, he’s seen a number of teens and kids contributing to gun crimes.
“Our youth aren’t dying from fist fights, they’re dying from gun fights,” Boone said. “It’s something that any city needs to be concerned with is youth being shot, youth having easy access to guns, and shootings period. We need to get control of it,” he said.
Boone says violence affects the whole city. The Police Chief of Newport News also started his own journey to take back the community with weekly chats with the community.
“We talk over and over again how important it is for a community to take ownership of where they live residents to take ownership of their neighborhoods or their streets. I’ve seen that. We’ve seen a lot of cases cleared very very quickly because of that very reason.”
Our communities continue to work to take it back. After all, this is a community we love and the place we call home.