VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The man leading the police department in Virginia’s largest city is promising a new tailored strategy to address gun violence after eight people were shot in two days, five of them under the age of 18.
Police Chief Paul Neudigate told City Council Tuesday afternoon that he wants to study the crime data and trends before deciding exactly what policing tools to implement as part of a larger “holistic” plan he expects to roll out ahead of the 2021 tourist season.
He told council members that will help him to truly grasp the challenges the city has concerning crime.
In the short-term, Neudigate said he is enlisting the help of special operations officers to help beef up patrols in trouble spots.
In 2020, 80 people have been shot in the city and 14 have died as a result, according to statistics presented by Neudigate. That number of total shootings is well above the average of 45 shootings per year over the last three years.
“Virginia Beach was not immune to what was happening to the rest of the nation,” Neudigate said, referring to the rise in crime in the months of June and July following breakouts of social unrest.
Neudigate, who had worked his entire career in his hometown of Cincinnati before being sworn-in in Virginia Beach last month, said despite having success in reducing gun violence in his former job, he is not sure how that will translate.
“Just because something worked in Cincinnati, does not mean it is going to work in Virginia Beach, does not mean I’m going to try to replicate it here,” Neudigate said. “I will use my historical and institutional knowledge in addressing gun violence. But we will develop and tailor a specific strategy to address the challenges we have here in the beach.”
Still, Neudigate already has ideas in mind. He wants to better engage young people and try to mentor them away from resorting to a gun to solve their issues. He said that when looking at the triple-shooting Saturday outside the Lynnhaven Mall, the violence was at a property that has already hired off-duty officers for security.
“Tragic set of circumstances that we had three juveniles shot, but the police presence was there and it did not discourage the incident,” Neudigate said.
He also may be interested in investigating if “ShotSpotter” could be right for Virginia Beach. ShotSpotter is a sensor system that detects the sound of gunfire and uses GPS technology to pinpoint its exact location. Police are alerted within 60 seconds.
Currently, Newport News is the only Hampton Roads department to use it.
“I really need to take a look at what historical data in regards to homicide and shooting violence and other violent crime to really understand if we have a community that would benefit from that technology,” Neudigate said. “Eighty percent of the time, folks hear gunshots, they don’t pick up the phone and call, and it’s for a myriad of reasons.”
But before getting there, he said he would like the community to step up and report shootings the old fashioned way — especially if the current trend of shootings continues.
“I would ask them please call us. Pick up the phone . We need to respond. We need to be responsive to the community ’cause nobody needs to live with that type of activity,” Neudigate said.
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