VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — In a strongly-worded letter to Virginia Beach City Council, the president of the Virginia Beach Police Benevolent Association said if the city doesn’t hire more police officers, we can expect more of the same crime and violence that has become too frequent at the resort strip.
There were multiple shootings at the Oceanfront on Friday, one of which was officer-involved. The shootings left nine injured and two dead.
VBPBA President Brian Luciano told 10 On Your Side during a sit-down interview this week that he believes the Oceanfront is chaotic and the issues persist because the Virginia Beach Police Department is down 100 officers.
“It certainly does not help,” Luciano said.
We asked Luciano if being “100 cops light” impacted law enforcement’s response to last Friday night’s shootings.
“I wouldn’t say we were ill-prepared, but from the 100 officers’ … perspective, then yes,” he said.
Police Chief Paul Neudigate said it took 103 officers to manage the incident in the early hours Saturday morning.
10 On Your Side also sat down with Virginia Beach Mayor Bob Dyer who has strong support from Luciano and the PBA, who helped Dyer get re-elected. He understands the issue of being 100 officers light.
“In spite of everything, we are still considered a safe city. For us to continue to do that, we do have to dedicate the resources necessary… and we need to hire more police officers… That’s right,” Dyer said.
Dyer said altering police staffing is already underway.
“Here is the immediate action we are taking right now. The police chief is going to be bolstering personnel with more police officers at the Oceanfront. We are diverting and increase personnel that are going to be there, and we are going to supplement that with the sheriff’s department,” Dyer said.
However, Black Lives Matter 757 leaders have said they believe the answer to less violence isn’t more officers, but instead police and community positive involvement.
Luciano said those 100 officer positions now vacant could make up a whole police precinct, and the Oceanfront needs its own precinct — now.
“Imagine, a new precinct that we could put somewhere dedicated just to the Oceanfront,” he said.
We asked Dyer about that.
“A police precinct dedicated to the Oceanfront, I’m very open to that presence right in the middle of the resort strip, and I’m talking about an operational precinct,” Dyer said.
Luciano acknowledged that the police department not being properly equipped with personnel to meet the increasing demands of Virginia Beach and the Oceanfront, and all that goes with it.
“I think that is true 100 percent,” he said.
In his recent letter to City Council about the shootings, Luciano wrote, “one of the responsibilities of local government is to provide for the safety of its citizens.”
Luciano told us he believes Virginia Beach City Council is failing to do that.
Luciano goes back to College Beach Week 2013 to chart Virginia Beach’s increase in crime. That was the first Beach Week that showed the resort strip’s vulnerability, and what he said is City Council’s inability to do something effective about it.
“What we have done to improve our situation — we have done nothing to improve our situation. In fact, we’ve back-slid” he claimed.
In the letter, Luciano also wrote of council ignoring and marginalizing the issue.
“A decade of neglect has helped lead us here,” he wrote.
Dyer admitted that it’s “probably true.”
Luciano said the trickle-down effects are that officers are leaving because they don’t feel support. They want to be paid more, they want to feel appreciated, and they feel they have a better future somewhere else.
We asked Dyer when will City Council solve the problem of having so many officer positions vacant.
“We need to fund the positions. Ultimately, we will do what needs to be done to do what we must do, and everything is on the table,” Dyer said.
Dyer said he has read Luciano’s letter. He said filling police positions is a challenge across the country, but gets what Luciano is saying.
“I think there needs be retention bonuses, hiring bonuses, raises, serious raises,” Luciano said.
From all the millions of dollars allocated for 100 police positions that remain unfilled at this time, Luciano said now taxpayers will ultimately drive the message to City Council.
“We need the citizens to say ‘yes.’ We need police officers. We need to feel safe,” Luciano said.