PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — With summer in full swing, 10 On Your Side checked in with Portsmouth Police Chief Renado Prince to learn how their new crime prevention plan will work to prevent and respond to summer crime.
Portsmouth’s crime prevention plan looks to proactively and reactively address crime through a holistic approach.
Elements of the plan are meant to change based on the community’s needs, but Chief Prince says they need help from the community to be successful.
“Portsmouth has to be involved,” said Prince.
That proactive involvement doesn’t just include those who live in Portsmouth.
“That’s also why our plan includes behavioral health and social services. Sometimes people have to move. We’ve also partnered with the housing authority. We do what we have to do,” he said.
Also add in violence interrupters, trauma counselors, and multi agent operations to the holistic approach outlined in the Portsmouth crime prevention plan. This includes reactive help from Virginia State Police, something we’ve previously reported on.
“When we do our warrant services and we do our surge operations, State Police always partners with us, for the most part. But this time, they’re coming in to help us out solve our traffic problem,” he said.
Prince also says their citizen academy creates greater transparency by teaching the public proper policing practices.
“And it gives them an insight into what we’re doing and why. More importantly, once they understand, they can take that message back to the community and say, ‘No, they acted correctly.’ Or, ‘Yes, they did act incorrectly,'” said Prince.
They hope to open it up to 13 to 18-year-olds this summer too.
“They don’t know us and we’re trying to find ways to be able to touch children and our youth so they can say, ‘They’re not bad. That’s not what they are,’” he said. “Because a lot of people and a lot of youth have a negative image of the police because they come into contact with them at the worst moment in their life.”
Addressing violent crime from a community-focused perspective hopes to serve one main purpose.
“Getting to know the citizens. We have to be a part of the community, not apart from the community. That’s the way we do it. Those community engagement walks, coffee with a cop,” he said.
Part of the outreach is to meet people in the community for situations outside of police activity.
“You don’t trust people that you don’t know. That’s the biggest thing,” he said. “We’re trying to put ourselves out there so we can meet citizens in a friendly environment where we’re not arresting anybody. We’re not investigating anything. We’re literally out there knocking on doors saying, ‘Hey, how are you doing? Checking to see if there’s anything we can do to do our job better or to make your community better.'”
But it’s not all bad, Prince said community members have spoken up to help more.
“We’re starting to see people give us information on tips. We’re starting to see people take the chance to give us a call and say, ‘Hey, I think this is happening at this location.’ That’s a plus. That wasn’t happening a lot before,” he said.
Still, as Portsmouth continues to make headlines over violent incidents, Prince says it’s important to keep things in perspective.
“We are not alone. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s just Portsmouth. Every city in Hampton Roads is experiencing the same trend. We seem to be doing it louder, but it’s the same thing,” said Prince.
As Chief Prince said, Portsmouth is not alone in this problem. In the coming weeks, 10 On Your Side will be sitting down with more chiefs on the Peninsula and the Southside to keep these conversations going.