SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office launched Operation Ceasefire, a crime task force aimed at lowering violent crime and received $325,500 from the Department of Criminal Justice Services for the new two-year program.

The grant came into fruition after a rise in violent crimes in the city including homicides, aggravated assaults and firearm charges.

Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Narendra Pleas said homicides specifically have been on the rise since 2019.

That year, there were six homicides, the number then jumping to seven in 2021, then to 13 in 2022. This year, there are already five homicides.

“I know that when other cities in the Hampton roads area look at those numbers, we are nowhere near in comparison to their numbers but for Suffolk, this is a big deal,“ Pleas said.

Operation Ceasefire works as a two part system with one law enforcement workforce and one service workforce.

Ceasefire Prosecutor Amanda Abbey said both work as a team.

“With the law-enforcement work group, they’re going to be used to provide intelligence for identifying the individuals that are in the community that are instigating violence,” Abbey said.

Abbey was hired specifically for this program, which also includes a part-time legal assistant.

She said the next step in the process is a cease-and-desist notice.

It’s a message to criminals saying, “we’re watching you.”

“We know what they’re doing in the community,” Abbey said. “We know that they’re instigating violence in the community, and the community is no longer going to tolerate it.”

Abbey started with the operation back in March, already having success in a homicide case.

“That was the successful prosecution of a homicide case,” Abbey said, “resulting in a conviction for second degree murder and use of a firearm in a felony. That individual received an 18-year active sentence.”

The service workforce part of the taskforce aims to stop crime through access to jobs, substance abuse and more.

Pleas said that’s what makes the operation one of a kind, the opportunity for criminals in communities to get back into the fray.

“A lot of crimes stem from lack of education, lack of resources, lack of treatment for some people,” Pleas said, “and if we can get in and deter those people before they can get connected to their criminal activity, then that makes them a better person, that makes their families better that makes our communities better and safer.”

However, she said the operation’s success relies on the community.

“We cannot do it all,” Pleas said. “We need our community to step in and assist. … Word on the street sometimes catches us before police do.”

Their goal is to decrease the rate of violent crime in Suffolk by 10% at the two-year end mark.