NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Police and city leaders are looking at multiple angles to address a recent spike in violent crime.
This comes as a disturbing trend seems to continue: the ages of victims and suspects involved in these crimes keep getting younger and younger.
Early Monday morning, a 3-year-old child was shot near St. Paul’s Boulevard in Norfolk.
On Friday, four children ages 6 to 16 were sent to the hospital after getting hit when shots rang out on Madison Avenue.
“It’s just a broken record that continues to repeat itself,” said Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone. “It’s frustrating.”
A rally Sunday brought city and community members together to discuss ways to stop the violence.
“The challenge is young folks,” said Boone. “How do we stop the flow of firearms in the hands of young folks and convicted felons?”
The rally, organized by members of the Stop the Violence team, gave community members facetime with city leaders to express their concerns and frustrations.
“The leadership knows they have to step up to the plate and be reliable because the time is now and the situation that occurred, condition caused for a change,” said Stop the Violence Chairman Bilal Muhammad. “No longer can we sit back.”
Norfolk city leaders say this problem isn’t exclusive to Norfolk. It also plagues communities across Hampton Roads and the country.
Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander says he’s troubled over what he’s seen with these shootings and urges a stricter focus on prevention.
“A lot of times it’s too late when they call 911 or when they call the city, it’s when something has happened. The goal is to prevent something from happening, something bad from happening in the first place through programming, through activities,” he said.
Boone agrees and says he believes this could greatly minimize the chances of a gun getting into the hands of a teen.
“We, as a community, have to find a way to inspire hope into these kids, because right now we have young kids who are going home to nothing,” he said.
He says changes stem from utilizing every tool available through amended policies and practices, like talking directly to gun owners.
“Doing, in the short, with our federal partners, by way of tracking some of these guns,” he said. “By way of having conversations with original gun owners.”
In discussions with other Hampton Roads mayors, Alexander says creating interest in mentorship and professional development programs has proven successful in sparking an interest for teens, minimizing their involvement in crime.
“Then let’s focus on a career track or academic track in workforce development, in career and technical education,” said Alexander.
The mayor says he and other local leaders have also found success when parents and the community play a more active role in teen’s lives.
“Through parental involvement, community engagement and the collective working together as a village for the growth and for the development of that child,” he said.
Community organizers say the key to stopping the violence is through collective actions, not the actions of one individual.
“What are we going to do? And we’re asking for everybody to bridge in to help tackle the violence that’s taking place in different communities,” said Muhammad.
The Stop the Violence team says they’ll be busy the next couple of weeks organizing similar opportunities for community conversations to start up.
Still, city leaders say starting conversations is only the first step; it’s about what you do after them that’ll hopefully make a difference.