Norfolk police say crime is down after making arrest in city’s first homicide of 2019


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A Norfolk man was intercepted at Miami International Airport on Wednesday in connection to a recent fatal shooting on Ballentine Boulevard, the city’s first homicide of the year. 

Eugene Johnson Jr., 43, of the 1700 block of Pope Avenue, was taken into custody and charged with second-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. U.S. Marshals and Customs and Border Patrol assisted Norfolk Police with the arrest.

Police say the shooting victim, 40-year-old Lorenzo A. Roberts, was found with multiple gunshot wounds around 11 p.m. Saturday night in the 2600 block of Ballentine Blvd. 

“He was just a loving father,” said Jacqueline Waller, Roberts’ mother.  “I really just want to know why he’s done this to my son.”

Waller says Roberts died just two days shy of his 41st birthday.

“My number one thing was justice for Lorenzo, and I know we’re going to get justice for Lorenzo,” Waller said. 

Norfolk Police Corporal William Pickering says this is the first homicide in the City of Norfolk so far this year. This time last year, there were seven homicides. 

“We’re glad to see that it’s down, but we’re also not happy that someone did lose their life,” Pickering said.  “So our goal again is to reassure the community that we’re going to investigate the case, that we’re going to do whatever it takes to hold that person responsible for taking another person’s life.”

There were 48 homicides in the City of Norfolk in 2016.  37 of those were on the street, 11 of those were in a residence. 

There were 36 homicides in the city in 2017.  25 of those were on the street, 11 of those were in residences.

There were 36 homicides in the city in 2018.  20 of those were on the street, 16 of those were in residences. 

Pickering says crime in other areas, including robbery and assaults, is also trending downward. He says new technology has helped.

“Maybe those that are kind of hesitant in talking to us, hesitant to share information, are doing so through technology,” said Pickering.

He also says community engagement is the main driving factor in reducing crime.

“We are here to serve you, but we can’t do it alone,” he said. “We need that help, we need that engagement, we need that sharing of information. Once we get it, we’re going to follow up with it, and we’re going to hold whoever is responsible for the crime they committed.”

Pickering says the department has more than 25 community engagement initiatives that “promote stronger, lasting, positive and authentic relationships with our community members.” Some of those initiatives include Cops and Curls, FIVE and Fades, Coffee with a Cop, Trunk or Treat, Norfolk Finest and Furriest, LGTBQ Community Liaison, Clergy Patrol, and Shoot Hoops NOT Guns. 

“That’s where we win as a department,” said Pickering. “Extending that invitation and getting to know them and for them to get to know us is a different light and it’s working for us.”

Another initiative is called “hot bodies in hot spots.” Pickering says the department used data to conduct an in-depth analysis of the crime patterns in the city. The data showed that a small number of people are responsible for violent street crime and that the crime is concentrated in a small number of geographic areas. Pickering says the department focuses on known gang members in those areas that have active warrants. They work to remove them from the streets and reduce crime. 

“We all share the same interests. We all want to catch the bad guy and we’re going to do whatever it takes to catch the bad guy,” Pickering said. 

Pickering also says a gun violence initiative was established in the neighborhoods with the highest levels of gun violence, identified as hot spots.

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