NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Hampton Roads leaders are grappling with how to effect change and curb violence in our communities.
After multiple outbreaks of gun violence in busy areas of Norfolk, the city’s officials are working to answer many questions, including one of the most pressing: “How do we stop this?”
On Thursday, Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander will give his State of the City address, during which he will have to report issues about safety and people not feeling safe on the streets of Norfolk.
“You stop the bleeding, you stop the hemorrhaging,” Alexander said.
In a 25-minute, one-on-one interview with 10 On Your Side, Alexander only talked about crime. Alexander told said the community needs to do better and there is an urgency to do something,
“You stop what is happening immediately with strict law enforcement, and this is targeted, this is focused, it is a deterrent, but it is also measured,” Alexander said.
The mayor calls it a two-pronged approach.
In the short term, “it is surveillance, it is technology, innovation, increase in police presence, not necessarily increasing police power because the General Assembly determines how much power,” Alexander said.
There is also a long-term element to making Norfolk safer.
“The second prong is the long-term solution to preventing crime from happening through intervention and through targeted programs. Civic groups need to be involved, trusted partners and we need to train non-traditional leaders to be solutions,” the mayor said.
Alexander calls it a “measured approach.”
“We need to look at it in a different way of policing, a different way of security, a different way of deploying resources, and increasing police presence to respond to what we have become, which is a busy downtown,” he said.
Alexander says we do not need to reinvent the wheel on safety, we need to simply open our eyes and see what others are doing successfully.
“We need to look at Disney and those who run Busch Gardens, and Kings Dominion, New York City and L.A.,” he said.
The mayor thinks we may need metal detectors at places like Macarthur Center, where a shooting left one dead and two injured this past weekend.
“We may need the same things we have in courthouses where we have metal detectors,” he said.
The mayor says he expects City Manager Chip Filer to develop the new security plan.
“Immediately, I am looking to hear Dr. Filer’s short-term strategy to put an end to senseless gun violence, street violence, youth violence, gang violence however you want to term it… We need that now,” Alexander said.
The mayor thinks more needs to be done.
“I think cameras, technology, and surveillance is certainly a deterrent. We certainly do not have enough of them,” he said.
Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi says he’s getting tough on concealed weapons violations, even on first offenses.
The commonwealth‘s attorney says people violating the concealed weapons law are a good predictor of whether they will be involved in a crime or a victim of one.
“We need to recognize the direct link between misdemeanor firearms possessions and violence, and not just being charged with a crime but being a victim of a crime,” Fatehi said. “Those cases worry me because I don’t want to see someone in a coffin or a jail cell afterwards.”
Fatehi says City Council, the city manager, and the police chief are all focused on longer-term solutions and will discuss them publicly when they are ready to share their information.
For shoppers 10 On Your Side talked with Monday, the sense of security in the area around MacArthur Center runs across a broad spectrum.
A woman and her husband both used to work at MacArthur Center, and she says she can trace its downfall.
“It doesn’t feel like a friendly place at all anymore,” said Allison Presley, who worked in several locations in the mall in years gone by, including Nordstrom. She says her husband also worked there in the Apple store and he would sometimes have to bring the gates down and hide in the back room.
So, she’s not surprised about last weekend’s shooting.
“I honestly wouldn’t go into MacArthur at any point in the near future. Actually, when I go in there I kind of feel like impending doom,” Presley said.
Others say it can be safe if you do your shopping earlier in the day.
“I feel right safe. It’s a matter of knowing what time to come down, and there’s a lot of teenagers down here at night,” said Wilbert Bell.
And, ahead of his State of the City address this week, the Norfolk mayor has a message about safety on the streets of Norfolk and at MacArthur Center to those who think they are unsafe.
“MacArthur Center is not dangerous; these are very isolated incidents,” Alexander said.
Anyone with information on any recent crimes should contact authorities.
Those with information are encouraged to submit a tip via P3 tips or call the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.