PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — On Tuesday afternoon, Portsmouth city leaders held a press conference to talk about crime.
“Our city has been struggling with gun violence and violence in general,” said Mayor Shannon Glover. “Our citizens have been speaking to us about it. We wanted to make sure we had everybody at the table so that we could move forward in addressing it the right way.”
At the table Tuesday was Mayor Glover, City Manager Angel Jones, Councilmembers Lisa Lucas-Burke and Bill Moody, Police Chief Renado Prince, Sheriff Moore along with representatives from federal partners FBI, ATF and DEA.
“We have all the pieces in place, we’re ready to move forward in a collaborative and supportive way for everyone that’s at the table so we can impact our crime and violence in a positive way in the City of Portsmouth,” the mayor said.
City leaders said they’re taking a three-pronged approach to tackle crime: prevention, intervention, and enforcement.
City Manager Jones took time Tuesday to discuss a new $495,000 federal grant the city received to combat crime. Jones said the money will be used in part to fund “ambassadors” from grassroots organizations like Stop Violence 757 who will go into high crime communities and connect with youth.
Glover said they’re also working on small solutions they expect will have a big impact, like working with Dominion Energy to adding lighting in poorly lit communities.
“A small thing but in some of those communities they don’t have adequate lighting,” said Glover. “Just something as simple as improving the lighting across our communities can have a very big impact on safety.”
There were some noticeable absences on Tuesday. Councilmembers Whitaker, Battle, and Woodard did not attend. Neither did Vice Mayor De’Andre Barnes.
Barnes sent a letter to the mayor and city leaders which reads in part, “… my name was attached to something that I have no idea of the content or context of what is being presented at this press conference.”
The letter continues: “A press conference with no concrete plans to address the crime in our community is just more lip service, and that I will not be part of. I have a desire to not only address the crime, but actually put plans into place to address the crime. I do not want to talk about it anymore, I want to be about it. I will not be present at any event where there are no real plans to address the crime in our community.”
We asked the mayor about the vice mayor’s absence.
“We’re all one team and unity in there today, that’s what we want to focus on. All of us as leaders working together with law enforcement with community,” said Glover.
A local pastor who attended Tuesday’s press conference was disappointed with the absences.
“It shows a message of disunity, dysfunction, it sends a message that we’re not serious about the crime that we’re talking about,” said Barry Randall, the pastor at All People Cultural Life Church in Portsmouth. “I think the citizens need to hold them accountable and ask them, why weren’t you present today? This was an opportunity to share their plans, and their thoughts of what should happen in the City of Portsmouth and they didn’t take advantage of that and for that, I’m very disappointed in them.”