HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – Hampton’s new police chief said only 2021 has shown a higher incidence of violent crimes over the past five years than the current year, but he said property crimes have been more common this year.

Police Chief Jimmie Wideman, in a briefing during the Hampton City Council work session, noted an almost 40% increase in shootings compared to the same time last year.

So far this year, Hampton has had 63 shootings through June 30, compared to 46 for the same time period in 2022.

“You’ll see a significant increase in our violent crime incidents, specifically our murder and manslaughter (incidents),” Wideman said. “We had 26 actual victims, 22 incidents – two of which would be justified.

“In this, we noticed that, again, the subjects and victims had some sort of relationship prior to, in their activities, and some of the occasions involved some sort of criminal activity to which, again, the victims ended up victimized by the people they were having their criminal activities along with, their paths would cross, subsequent to that there was a violent consequence resulting in a homicide.”

Wideman said he continues to try to counter the city’s reputation as dangerous.

“Not to minimize victimization, but oftentimes, the crimes that we are most concerned with involve parties that are known to each other,” Wideman said. “There are no random victims. It’s not where you’re in a city where it’s not safe to walk the streets or walk your dog.”

Mayor Donnie Tuck echoed those thoughts.

“There’s this perception – and I don’t really pay that much attention to social media – but it’s out there that we’re such an unsafe city, and I’m afraid to, you know, take my child out the backyard, or across the street to the school or something,” Tuck said. “It is not random. For the most part, people are known to each other. It’s the circle that they move in, or a network.”

Said Wideman: “The subjects are known to one another. They’ve either chosen collectively together to engage in a criminal enterprise, subsequent to that, it’s often attached to violence, and the random act against an unknown party or random citizen is infrequent.”

Wideman did note a decrease in rapes, sexual assaults and robberies, as well as aggravated assaults, burglaries and property crimes other than incidents at ABC stores. He said there have been 738 instances of shoplifting in Hampton through June, but not counting the 290 instances of shoplifting at ABC stores, that number would stand at 448.

Property crime increase

Wideman attributed a large portion of the property crime increase to two larger trends – a massive uptick in thieves taking Kias and Hyundais, along with an increase in thefts at ABC stores.

“Our efforts have been to reach and see if we could come up with some sort of strategic plan to … do some preventative presence, awareness, and of course, apprehension,” Wideman said, “but that proves to be difficult not only in Hampton, but throughout the region.”

Wideman said that “if we can identify those subjects, and if the ABC wants to pursue those matters criminally, we can support and make that happen, but if nothing else, if the only solution for us is humiliation through social media to discourage someone from either going out and committing additional offense(s) or deciding for the first time to do so, knowing that this is one of the methods and tools we will use to impact, proactively, the incidents of the larcenies from the ABC stores.”

Tuck asked why ABC stores are a particular target.

“For the lack of better terms, it is an easy target, a soft target,” Wideman said, “because they’re not motivated to actually prosecute those offenses. The reporting is delayed – where there’s an act in progress, there’s a delay in the actual reporting to law enforcement.

“There have been occasions when we get notified of a larceny that multiple reports are being made for multiple offenses over a span of time, rather than immediately after the incident.”

Wideman said he was concerned about violence on the interstates.

“If there was going to be a pressing issue or an issue that I have my own personal concerns about — and still is something we need to collectively sit down and talk about — it would be our interstates,” Wideman said, “with the violence that has increased not in our cities as much as on our interstate roadways now, where you have the potential for more collateral damage subject to the interactions or conflicts between parties that are traveling, commuting along the interstates engaging in some kind of firearms exchange and then a random citizen being victimized by that.”