PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – The news broke Thursday afternoon ahead of a city-wide prayer vigil that Stephen Jenkins was promoted to police chief.
Jenkins has been with the department for 20 years and is taking over as the city deals with a recent spike in homicides to round out 2022.
Chief Jenkins says gun violence is no doubt one of the biggest problems they’re dealing with today. He says enough is enough and it’s time to come together to save the city.
“As the chief, sometimes people expect you to have all the answers but that’s not the case,” said Chief Jenkins. “We are a team.”
Chief Jenkins says he’s giving everything he has to make the city a better place. He has been serving as interim chief for the past six months and says he was happy to get the call.
“To get the call was more of a validation that I was doing the right thing and that people were happy with the direction we were going in,” said Jenkins.
Coming off a deadly year for the city, Chief Jenkins says it’s important to come together. Many came out to pray for the city on Thursday night during this epidemic of gun violence.
“I think last night was just a starting point,” said Chief Jenkins. “We can make a change in our area and this city when we get everyone to get involved.”
Jenkins says he hopes to have more prayer vigils in the future.
“We’ve tried a lot of things but we’ve seemed to have forgot that the most important part of it is that our faith is paramount and we all have to come together and acknowledge our faith,” said Chief Jenkins.
He also wants to address the rising number of property crimes and plans to recruit more officers to serve the city.
“People that are in this capacity need to hear that they are supported and that they are needed and I think we are seeing that now more than ever that we are looking for home grown heroes to come out and say I want to get involved, I want to do the job, I want to make my community safe,” said Chief Jenkins.
He also believes there needs to be a bigger emphasis placed on conflict resolution so people aren’t turning to guns.
“Gangs are an issue, I will not tell you that they are not, but conflict resolution is even a bigger issue,” said Chief Jenkins. “Whether it’s in the home or in programs, we teach people and young people how to not only deal with their individual problems, but also the problems that they’re having with other people.”
He also says it’s important for people to speak up when they see a crime take place.
“People have to know that you can not just come into an area and do whatever you want to do and people are going to be quiet about it,” said Chief Jenkins. “That’s how you empower more activity and we have to stand up and say enough is enough.”
Chief Jenkins has served under several chiefs now and several city managers. He started with the department in 2003 as a patrolman and worked his way up to Assistant Police Chief and then most recently Interim Chief.
“I’ve seen this department at its best and I’ve seen it at its worst,” said Chief Jenkins. “I’ve had the opportunity to serve under many chiefs and to learn from good things and I’ve learned from some more controversial things.”
Chief Jenkins says he doesn’t want to get into the past regarding the recent changes in leadership in the city but instead wants to move forward collectively to advance the city of Portsmouth.
“I think everyone we have has come into this with good intentions,” said Chief Jenkins. “At the end of the day the most important thing is the city and the citizens that live here and if we continue to put them first, I know that we will see change.”