PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — On Friday, the Portsmouth Police Department held its first “State of the Department” briefing.
Interim Police Chief Scott Burke touched on a wide range of topics, from police reform, to crime rates in the city, to bringing the city together.
The good news: overall crime is down. The bad news: homicides are up 133%.
“Overall, our crime rate is down. Violent crimes are showing an overall reduction throughout the city of 4%,” said Burke. “However, as everyone has noticed, we had a significant increase in homicides this year.”
During Friday’s State of the Department address, Burke said homicides rose from 16 in 2019 to 34 in 2020. To reduce those numbers, the department is dividing the city into three districts and focusing on specific neighborhoods in those districts. Those districts are Craddock, Churchland, and the central part of the city.
Plus, they are working with local groups to help unite the community.
“We’re going to all be coming together and adding faith communities and civic leagues into this as well, to look into the larger picture of how Portsmouth can come back together as one Portsmouth,” Burke said.
In the wake of events nationwide involving police brutality, Burke address reform and policies within the department.
“The use of chokeholds and other submission tactics have not been authorized in this city for many, many years,” said Burke. “We also have an imposed duty on our officers to intervene and to stop situations if they start to get out of control.”
He says, while the pandemic has kept them from holding RESET walks in the community after violent crimes, they are committed to improving community relations.
“In the spring, we launched a community advisory committee,” Burke said. “We have a panel of 15 citizens from across the city who are reviewing police policy, programs, initiatives. They are looking at us and working with us to identify gaps in our service delivery.”
Burke says, if citizens want to help keep the city safe, the best thing to do is call police if they hear something suspicious.
BELOW: Watch the full State of the Department address.