VBPD chief: Crime trending down, but department facing recruiting and retention challenges

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Crime is trending down in Virginia Beach: That’s the latest from a police department briefing at a special City Council meeting Tuesday afternoon.

While that’s good news, the department is facing some challenges in getting people to join the force.

Chief Paul Neudigate said the department is understaffed. They’re trying to fill dozens of vacancies and even requiring overtime to make sure the city is adequately protected.

In his first review of VBPD’s annual report, Neudigate shared some positive trends in 2020. Crimes like homicide, rape, burglary and auto theft were down 13%.

Although homicides went down, the total number of people injured in shootings skyrocketed.

“We were up 70%,” Neudigate said.

There were 77 people injured in shootings last year, compared to just 28 people in 2019.

“The vast majority of these shooting victimizations occurred in June and July,” he said.

Virginia Beach is authorized to hire 813 sworn officers, but Neudigate said VBPD is currently at an operational deficit of 92 positions.

“To put it bluntly, there are not a lot of individuals out there — white, Black or brown — that are beating down the door to enter the law enforcement profession,” he said.

The police chief said one issue that keeps some potential candidates from coming here is the lack of a definitive, structured pay plan.

He says recruiting people of color has also been challenging. Neudigate pointed to comments from recent academy graduates.

“They laid it right on the line for us. There [was] pushback from their community, there was pushback from their family and there was pushback from their friends to be part of the law enforcement profession and they decided the scrutiny was not warranted,” he said.

Neudigate said they’re turning to digital ways of recruiting and looking into other means.

“I think we are going to struggle unless we do some really revolutionary and visionary strategies to make Virginia Beach stand out,” he said.

Neudigate said he’s eliminated all transfers to non-patrol-related assignments and he’s also considering shift changes in certain precincts to keep the city covered as needed.

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