NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — As temperatures start to rise and the familiar summer humidity returns to Virginia, Newport News Police will begin implementing a comprehensive, community-centered approach to combat crime.
Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew says the department begins planning for the summer as early as March. In general, the plans involve proactive and reactive responses to crime as well as community engagement elements.
Part of the solution to suppressing violence looks to the next generation for help and guidance.
“Why are we seeing individuals pick up a gun, and shoot at each other? Why is that happening?,” said Chief Drew. “Gun violence, why is that happening?”
He wasn’t posing this question to a group of uniformed officers; he asked a group of high school students this question during a roundtable discussion.
The hope is if teens are engaged in their communities, then they’ll stay out of trouble.
“I think the biggest factor is schools are out,” said Drew. “So there’s more youth that are looking for something to do, looking to get engaged. What do we do? Nobody wants to just sit around and I think sports will take up some of that.”
Keeping the youth engaged and out of trouble, however, isn’t the only task the department is focused on.
“Auto theft is going to be something that we’re going to look at. Social media and neighborhood disputes, we’re going to stay on top of that. We also try to work very closely with our other jurisdictions,” said Drew.
In order to do so, Drew wants to get his officers into the communities they serve and get them as much facetime with residents to build positive relationships.
“That has to be a key element, partnering with our citizens and our neighborhoods as we move into the summer to address crime as best we can before it happens and then respond to it and solve it when we can,” he said.
There are many ways to do that.
“Individuals that work with our narcotics and gang units in the communities, I want to make sure that we’re using our technology,” he said. “I want us interacting in the communities and being seen, being visible. I want residents to know here that they’re going to see some increased patrols in certain neighborhoods in our community. But you’re also going to see walking beats. We’re going to have officers on bicycles.”
There’s also a plan to place school resources officers in the community during the summer.
“I want them to do a balance to work, not only in the communities, but work a lot around activities where youth are going to be at. Things that they’re going to be doing. Areas that they live in. Neighborhoods that we could use some extra enforcement and who better to address issues with youth and young people than our school resource officers who go to school with them and interact with them,” said Drew.
Also part of the plan, an environmental approach to clean up neighborhoods.
“It’s going to have an officer that works with, with our code enforcement unit, works and utilities division, to get some of that bulk trash picked up. To get some of the things that might be laying around, that becomes rat-infested, to move on that stuff quickly,” he said.
All of this is a big undertaking, but he’s not doing it alone.
“Public safety is everyone’s responsibility,” said he.
As the summer starts, Chief Drew wants people in Newport News to remember:
“This police department is going to be engaged this summer. I’m expecting the same thing from our residents in Newport News,” he said.
As far as staffing to accomplish these goals, the department has about 18 vacancies, but they have 27 recruits in an academy class expected to graduate at the end of June.
On Thursday, June 20, 10 On Your Side will have a conversation with Portsmouth Police Chief Renado Prince about how his department is working to take back the community.