Hampton Police chief connects recent increase in crime to COVID-19


HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — The City of Hampton held a briefing Monday morning addressing recent shootings in the city.

There have been six shootings, two of which were homicides, in the past six days, Hampton Police Chief Terry Sult says.

He added that it is clear the coronavirus and how people are impacted by it is evident by the recent crime level in the city.

“We have a number of factors involved, and these factors include everything from domestic violence, to gang activity, to drugs, illegal firearms and frankly we’re seeing a lot of additional activity in the form of parties and gatherings and people on the street and some of those factors that we’re including and looking at involves the unemployment, involves schools being out,” Sult said.

Sult told reporters that where there were five or six homicides at this time last year. This year, there have been 12 so far.

“There have been parties and gatherings and people on the street. Some of those factors … involve unemployment and schools being out,” Sult added.  

The chief says it is traditional that crime goes up during the summer months, but it appears due to coronavirus the summer month trends are hitting earlier.

“That’s because a lot of people are out on the street, kids are out of school, and there’s a lot of activity that normally doesn’t occur during the winter months or during the school year,” he said. 

Sult says all six shootings were in groups where people knew each other or may have known each other, and were not random acts of violence.

He says efforts are underway to re-assign administrative personnel in buildings where social distancing is an issue.

“We have done that through putting the school resource officers on the street, and they are now in their summer schedule looking at the beaches and in other areas, and we have additional resources on the street,” he said.  

The federal authorities are coming in too, but the chief wouldn’t go into details.

“… the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, and we have a task force officer assigned to increase our capabilities and that is opening on the Peninsula,” he said. 

Due to the urgency of the troubling statistics from the last six days, Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck and City Manager Mary Bunting also appeared in a livestream on social media.

“We know the closure of businesses, job layoffs, and unemployment have increased the stress experience by many of our residents,” Tuck said.  

So much so, Hampton Police had given grace on minor infractions. Sult said that due to coronavirus, the department has been letting some minor infractions go, but he said starting Monday, police will begin cracking down on them.

“One of the aspects of the pandemic we have had to relax enforcement. We have had to back off and not issue summons where we might normally have… We’ve also had to reduce the number of traffic stops to try to create more social distancing, physical distancing and protection,” Sult said.

The chief says the law is the law and the COVID-19 summons break has come to an end.

“If a summons is warranted it will be given, but we are going back to normal protocols to make an arrest. We are going back to arrests … to send a message to those who do harm in the community,” he said. 

Bunting also wants Hampton to be responsive to those who are struggling.

“We want them to use the community services for those who are struggling, emotionally and mentally, particularly during this pandemic,” Bunting said.  

If you need help, Bunting encourages you to reach out to some of these services:

Watch the full press briefing below.

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