PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Portsmouth city leaders are finding new ways to tackle crime. Interim Police Chief Stephen Jenkins gave a presentation to council during a specially-called meeting and shared statistics and solutions.

It comes as the city investigates its latest homicide, as a 20-year-old was shot and killed near the Walmart on Frederick Boulevard Saturday night.

License plate readers, a gun shot detection system and a real time crime center – just some of the crime-fighting efforts the city of Portsmouth is working to implement.

“It’s not a money-making initiative,” Jenkins told City Council Monday. “It truly is a self-supporting system once it’s in place.”

Portsmouth city leaders laid out two of the biggest deficits when it comes to Portsmouth’s crime response. In a report to council, Jenkins explained that the department has 88 sworn vacancies and 19 civilian vacancies, with many civilian vacancies in the city’s 911 call center. Council members said a recent audit revealed the average dispatch response time is 20 minutes to contact police when taking an emergency call, and in some cases, dispatch has not picked up.

“Somebody made a phone call, nobody answered the call and eventually it got flipped over to Norfolk and Norfolk had to do something on our behalf,” said Councilman Mark Hugel, referring to a Portsmouth attorney who was assaulted while on his lunch break.

On top of license plate readers, a real-time crime center and gun shot detection system, Jenkins is working to get an online citizen’s reporting system, speed zone cameras and officer body camera upgrades to the city.

Jenkins hopes to have Flock license plate readers and speed cameras installed by this summer.

“Ultimately our goal is not to hide anything,” Jenkins said, “but to see exactly what happened so that we can make good decisions when it comes to not only addressing complaints but also looking for policies that need to be changed or training that we need to continue with.”

More information

You can find a copy of Portsmouth’s crime statistics here. So far in 2023, there have been 14 homicide cases with 16 victims. In all of 2022, there were 39 homicide cases with 42 victims.