Newport News council accepts $500K gun violence prevention grant, hoping it helps following Heritage High shooting

Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Newport News City Council unanimously voted on Tuesday to accept a $500,000 grant it hopes can help curb gun violence.

The Virginia Gun Violence Intervention Program Grant was awarded to the city’s police department from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services for the purpose of implementing “a multi-faceted approach to address and reduce violence, with an emphasis on gun violence, homicide, and assaults,” according to council documents.

The grant requires 25% of the money to be given to non-governmental and community-based organizations. Those groups must prioritize prevention and intervention for those statistically at the highest risk of participating in or being a victim of gun violence.

Typically, grants are approved as part of consent agendas and not discussed all that much in council meetings. However, City Manager Cynthia Rohlf said “given the events of the last few weeks,” she thought it would be good for Police Chief Steve Drew to come and for the council members to discuss the grant’s intentions.

On Sept. 20, a 15-year-old student allegedly shot and injured two 17-year-old students in Heritage High school as part of a fight, according to court documents.

Drew said the gun used in the incident has already been traced to incidents in two other jurisdictions and said continued investment in technology is one of the factors he hoped to address with some of the grant funds.

“We will select three locations in our community. One in the south, one in the central and one in the north of our three precincts of where we are seeing gun violence. We will focus in those areas and putting resources there,” Drew said. “The situation we had on Monday, the technology helped us to make quick advances.”

He said the department will be leaning on its growing camera system to help track guns as they move around the city.

“We will also be focusing on technology, we will be focusing on community outreach that we will do with youth and young people, teenagers. And we will be focusing on training,” Drew said.

He spoke about enhancing police and youth basketball leagues and kickball leagues.

Mayor McKinley Price said after talking to his youth commission Monday night, more than ever, young people are “very concerned,” following the incident at Heritage.

“I think the sooner we let them know we are doing everything and anything we can, the quicker they get that message, the better,” Price said. “They are frightened.”

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