NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares were in Norfolk with law enforcement officials on Monday to announce a $30 million proposal to fund law enforcement.
Youngkin announced a new public safety initiative called Operation Bold Blue Line, described as a holistic approach to addressing violent crime.
This initiative is part of his administration’s Violent Crime Taskforce.
Watch the full press conference below.
“The reason why you’re here is because you’re concerned,” Sears said as she began her remarks.
“We need help. It’s about fellowship and working towards a shared mission,” Gov. Youngkin said. He said too many people have fallen victim to violent crime, that fatal shootings across the commonwealth have seen a growth in the first six months of this year compared to previous years.
There have been 14 roundtable discussions held around the state on the subject of crime.
Operation Bold Blue Line outlines proposals to help reduce homicides, shootings and violent crime, which include:
- Supporting existing law enforcement by fixing pay and wage compression
- Supporting new law enforcement with comprehensive recruiting efforts to attract officers from other states and develop homegrown talent
- Bolstering law enforcement with more training and equipment
- Ensure law enforcement is backed by prosecutors
- Provide more resources to victims and witnesses
Some proposals for recruiting include launching a $30 million nationwide and homegrown recruitment effort, an 8-week fast-tracked lateral training academy, hiring a full-time recruitment coordinator, increasing dual enrollment and creating “badge and degree” programs.
10 On Your Side asked Governor Youngkin about the City of Norfolk’s actions to revoke conditional use permits, ultimately shutting down a handful of businesses in response to violence downtown.
“Each city is going to have to address this the way they think is best,” said Youngkin. “I think right now, given the level of violent crime, all things should be on the table. And I think if the city, local leadership needs to take actions against businesses, that’s their discretion to do so.”
During the press conference, Attorney General Miyares also announced Operation Ceasefire to target and reduce violent crime by investing in gang prevention, supporting victim protection funding, supporting community policing in high-crime neighborhoods, and getting the most violent and repeat offenders off our streets.
The ceasefire aims to reduce crime in several cities including Norfolk, Hampton, Petersburg, Roanoke, Newport News, Portsmouth, Richmond, Chesapeake, Danville, Martinsville, Lynchburg and Emporia.
Operation Ceasefire will dedicate 5-6 cross-designated Special Assistant United States Attorneys with the AOG to prosecute violent crime.
Additionally, the OAG will be hiring 2-3 Group Violence Intervention Coordinators to promote gang violence intervention strategies, coordinate resources, work with law enforcement, and develop relationships with the community.
The OAG will also work with the General Assembly to fund a Victim/Witness Protection Program to provide funds for protective services to ensure that testifying does not put victims’ safety at risk.
“Without victims willing to testify, prosecutors and law enforcement cannot do their jobs,” said AG Miyares. “To address this, my office, with the governor’s support, will work with those in the General Assembly to fund a Victim/Witness Protection Program.”
This announcement was met with loud applause.
The General Assembly previously allocated $5 million for Ceasefire in the bipartisan budget earlier this year. It was passed by the legislature and signed by Youngkin earlier this year and is expected to be fully funded by winter.
Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi, in response to the announcement, said he was “heartened” to hear about the efforts to address the ongoing shortage of law-enforcement officers across Virginia.
“I am also heartened to learn of a possible effort to fund Virginia’s unfunded Witness Protection
Program, an initiative I have championed for over a year along with Fairfax Commonwealth’s
Attorney Steve Descano, Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales, and other
progressive prosecutors,” Fatehi said.
However, Fatehi said he is “disappointed but unsurprised” to hear Youngkin and Miyares try to pit prosecutors against police by “deploying time-worn, divisive rhetoric regarding prosecutors ‘unwilling’ to punish violent crime.”
“I know of no prosecutor in Virginia unwilling to do so; progressive prosecutors like me believe in focusing our resources on addressing and prosecuting violence. I have focused on violent crime every day since I took office,” said Fatehi.
Fatehi also disagreed with Youngkin’s efforts to hire Assistant Attorneys Generals as Special Assistant United States Attorneys, which he says has the potential to “harm the effort to fight violence.”
“A move to hire prosecutors into the Attorney General’s Office will strip experienced trial lawyers out of local offices where elected Commonwealth’s Attorneys need them most.”
Fatehi ended his response by urging Youngkin and Miyares to support the “full funding” of Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Offices as they did for police.