Police chief credits community interaction to decrease in violent crime in Newport News

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Police say five people were shot in four local cities over the weekend, and three of those victims died. 

For both Norfolk and Newport News, these are the first homicides detectives are investigating in 2019.

This time last year, Newport News detectives were already investigating three homicides.

10 On Your Side’s Tamara Scott checked in with Newport News on how police are trying to stop deadly violence.

Chief of Police Steve Drew said while the department could take all the credit, the credit is truly shared with the community and the relationship they’ve formed.

Yugonda Sample-Jones wants the best for her community in Newport News, but in the past it’s been the target of violent crime.

When the new chief arrived in town, she wanted to know who was going to be checking in on all of them.

“I called him and asked him what he was going to do about crime and youth in my community and his answer was ‘where do you live?’ and he showed up at my porch,” said Sample-Jones.

The two formed a friendship, and Chief Drew promised things would change for her and her community — he says that was the start of change overall.

He says it started with changes in the department and changes with relationships in the community.

“It’s being proactive to intercept before a crime takes place, and I think it is quick arrests after crime does take place,” said Chief Drew.

Yugonda says she has definitely seen a difference.

“I’m pleased to say almost a year later, and the issues that I spoke to him about in our community, what I wanted to see the changes he has actually implemented,” Sample-Jones said. 

Chief Drew said they couldn’t do it without the trust from the community.

“I think that it is easy to sit in an office or behind a podium and talk about community policing, I think it easy to hear those words, but at the end of the day, it’s actions,” he said.

“I can’t believe we were at zero percent, that’s great and that makes me keep going. That makes me feel like ‘OK things are really changing.’ I’m going to stay here in downtown Newport News, cause it’s not “bad news” we got a lot of good news going on down here,” Sample-Jones said.

Chief Drew has a lot in store for his community, including a new homicide support group coming soon for those who have lost loved ones in senseless tragedies. He said as long as they keep putting their citizens first, they’ll continue to succeed.

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