Handshakes, conversation and bags of food: Police building relationships with residents of Aqueduct Apartments

Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A name often linked with crimes in Newport News: Aqueduct Apartments. The northern Newport News apartment complex houses many low-income residents and has also been the scene of numerous shootings and other violence over the years.

Residents have told WAVY News reporters they’re used to hearing gunfire.

But now, some residents are hearing a welcome sound at their doors — Police and local ministers knocking with good news and gifts.

Newport News Police officers have been teaming up with local ministers to take back the community.

They’re fighting crime and distrust of the police with handshakes, conversation, and bags of food.
The effort is sponsored by a group called “PACCT.”

“PACCT is an acronym for ‘Police and Concerned Citizens Together,'” said the Rev. Eric “Duke” McCaskill. In August, McCaskill and PAACT volunteers delivered bags of groceries to 24 families and individuals.

“With COVID-19, many of these families are suffering, as you can imagine. And the idea came — what can we do to show love and also build bridges of goodwill with police officers and the residents of Aqueduct?”

Linda “Dutchess” McCaskill, also a minister and Duke McCaskill’s wife, said “it was really surprising” when they, along with police officers, delivered bags of food to residents in about two dozen apartments. She says what she found it surprising how many families didn’t have much food.

Duke McCaskill says the police officers were enthusiastic about joining the effort to help take back the community while getting know Aqueduct residents.

“Officer Gholson was one of the first officers, along with officer Averett, and it was just a beautiful show of kindness, police officers coming with good, goodwill, if you will, and with needed food and groceries.”

Duke McCaskill said, considering how tense relations with police are among residents in some Black communities, he was glad Newport News Police were willing to visit Aqueduct to try and get to know some residents.

“I would say now more than ever, this is more important, and we’re doing more of this kind of to remind our communities that we are here to serve them,” said Officer Gholson. “And- it’s though community efforts like this that we can get through situations like (the) COVID” pandemic. And, crime. Residents, comfortable with Officers may be more willing to talk.

Duke McCaskill says the volunteers in PAACT have since learned of more needy families at Aqueduct. And they’re planning another food distribution at the end of September. The time is critical since it’s when some families receiving public assistance, run out of funds to feed their families. Duke McCaskill says they need donations from the public.

If you’d like to help the hungry residents of Aqueduct apartments, the McCaskills would like to hear from you. Contact them and the volunteers of P.A.C.C.T. at this number: 757-719-1723.

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