NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Norfolk Police Chief Larry D. Boone is addressing recent youth gun violence after a series of tragic events in the area involving minors.
On Sunday, a 15-year-old boy was gunned down in Young Terrace just a couple of weeks after a 13-year-old was shot in the same community.
“One death is one too many,” Boone said.
Following the most recent death, along with the deadly shooting of a Wawa employee, the police chief released a statement urging the community to step up and help stop the violence.
In it, Boone emphasized how local youth are using more dangerous methods to solve arguments and disputes among themselves.
Boone says that Hampton Roads has a gun problem, but in the last couple of years, he’s seen a number of teens and kids contributing to gun crimes.
“Our youth aren’t dying from fist fights, they’re dying from gun fights,” Boone said. “It’s something that any city needs to be concerned with is youth being shot, youth having easy access to guns, and shootings period. We need to get control of it,” he said.
Boone says violence affects the whole city.
Just last year, authorities recovered more than 700 firearms in Norfolk alone after criminal investigations were conducted.
Boone found that the majority of the firearms were legally purchased, yet the person who purchased the gun and the person who used it in a crime had no ties to one another.
Chief Boone blames irresponsible gun owners for the recent hike in gun-related violence among today’s youth.
“As you know, our youth cannot legally purchase a handgun, so they’re getting them from homes, unlocked vehicles and other illegal means.”
Boone says African American men make up the majority of gun violence victims and suspects, and added lack of education and poverty has contributed to the rise of youth gun violence.
17 juveniles have been shot this year, according to Boone, who says it’s demoralizing seeing so many young lives taken or changed.
“We’re losing our future, you know, and I just wish there was a lot of energy surrounding that with folks that could truly make a difference. A lot of people have things to say but they’re on the sideline,” he said.
Chief Boone says that the most helpful thing the community can do to help our children is to be available, valuable and visible.
He’s asking the community to do something — reaching out to the youth and being there for them — to fix an issue he believes we’re becoming desensitized to.
The police department has a number of programs that are working to help cut violence and assist youth, but Boone says his officers can’t fix the problem on their own.
“Let’s look within our own communities to assist our male youth with guidance, employment, and the self confidence that doesn’t roll through the barrel of a gun, but through your time and intentional commitment to change a life-threatening dynamic.”
It’s up to the community to help.
“We keep doing the same ole, same ole, and expect a different outcome,” he said. “This is the greatest country in the world. There’s nothing we can’t do. It makes me awfully suspicious we can’t address this issue with gun violence. It doesn’t make sense to me. we need responsible parents, responsible mentors, we need the efforts from the church, the efforts from the school board. We need the efforts from the media,” Boone said.
Boone also recommended that gun owners should keep their weapons locked and kept away in safe spaces where they can’t be stolen. He says that stolen weapons, from homes and cars, are also contributing to this issue.
Here’s Boone’s full statement on gun violence:
Over the past few weeks our communities in Norfolk have experienced a series of tragic events involving our most vulnerable and impressionable citizens. Headlines such as “Teen Dies from Shooting” and “Shooting near Elementary School” have no less captured the reality that our youth are resulting to violence against one another to settle neighborhood “beefs” or simply being disrespected. As petty as this sounds, I have found that this is a motivating factor in whether someone lives or dies. Now our youth aren’t dying from fist fights, they’re dying from gun fights.
Last year, I examined over 700 firearms recovered as a result of criminal investigations in the City of Norfolk. One common denominator when researching the gun was that it was legally purchased before getting into the hands of the shooter. In most cases, the person who purchased the firearm and the person who used it in a crime had no ties to one another. So how are these guns getting into the hands of our youth? Simply put, irresponsible gun owners. As you know, our youth cannot legally purchase a handgun so they’re getting them from homes, unlocked vehicles, and other illegal means. Properly securing your firearm reduces the chances a juvenile will use a gun to make a split-second decision that changes everyone’s life. Gun violence is not all about politics, and I will not invest energy in speculation about future gun legislation. What is more compelling, is what WE as a community can do in the present to affect gun violence.
As a community, we need to rally around our youth and provide them with opportunities to prosper. You can help change the direction of a juvenile’s life by being Available, Valuable, and Visible to them. Odds are you don’t have to look far to find someone in need of guidance. I urge communities that have witnessed the unmitigated killings of youth on their streets to have brave and courageous conversations with each other about gun violence, gun safety, illegal gun purchase, and the loss of young African-American males, who are identified repeatedly as suspects and victims. Let’s look within our own communities to assist our male youth with guidance, employment, and the self confidence that doesn’t roll through the barrel of a gun, but through your time and intentional commitment to change a life-threatening dynamic. Job applications in the hands of our youth for Summer employment, instead of guns, is a goal we should all work toward.
The City of Norfolk encourages our “community members” to find ways to positively impact our youth through outreach, engagement, and employment activities. To that end, I encourage ways we can partner in our efforts to reduce gun violence.
I would be remised if I didn’t share my sadness in the wake of another juvenile’s tragic death. As a police department, we will continue with the efforts that have shown to produce a reduction in crime. Having said that, even one act of violence is one too many.Nevertheless, my responsibility as Chief of Police is to use the women and men of the Norfolk Police Department to make your community safer by holding those accountable for the crimes they commit. Therefore, I will continue to target known offenders in those areas throughout the city that have been impacted by violent crime. My methods will be deployed strategically as to not impact the lives of our law-abiding citizens, but it will leave an indelible mark on those who use violence against our citizens.
Chief of Police, Larry D. Boone