NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew held two “Chat with the Chief” sessions on Tuesday.

Drew’s sessions come a week after three deadly homicides, including the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old Woodside High School student outside Menchville High School. An 18-year-old Warwick student has been charged with murder in the case.

“Two families now have lost loved ones because of the incident that happened at Menchville High School,” he said. “The family that lost a loved one to death, to gun violence, and the other that’s been arrested for it. I’m telling you Newport News, we’re better than that.”

Drew says homicides compared to this time frame last year are down by over 50%, but homicides in 2021 are up to 28 this year, compared to 25 last year.

The department has an 80% clearance rate with homicides and has recovered over 800 firearms this year. 

Drew says he feels more community engagement could make a great impact on minimizing violence in the city.

“The solution is that multiple entities, individuals and agencies and groups have to come together to address gun violence,” said Drew. “We are 470 officers so they don’t work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Even though the department has a shortage of 45 officers, Drew says if gun violence and homicides go down, it’ll be because of community engagement.

“Everybody has value and if we just stop and look at each other as a family, I think we can make a difference,” he said. “You all matter to me and we’re better than this. Our communities are better than this.”

Community members shared their thoughts with Drew at noon and 6 p.m. on the department’s Facebook page.

The Newport News community also held a march on Saturday to call for change, including solutions to end youth violence.