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Tackling gun violence | How Hampton Roads law enforcement tracks 'crime guns'

Law enforcement agencies are feeling the impact of gun violence in Hampton Roads. Federal partners are helping with tracking weapons involved in crime scenes.

NORFOLK, Va. — Violent crime in Hampton Roads is increasing. The number of shooting investigations has local and federal agencies banding together to get criminals and weapons off the streets.

The names and memorials of victims who have died due to gun violence is spread all across Hampton Roads. Now, families are coping and remembering them every day.

“Ever since he passed away I come out the front door and the sun is right here,” said Calvin Harris.

Harris said his brother, 25-year-old Devon Malik Harris, is always with him. Malik was shot and killed on Granby Street, along with Virginian-Pilot journalist Sierra Jenkins and Marquel Andrews. The shooting was all over a spilled drink, police said.

Harris said his sadness turned to frustration.

“And really it’s not grieving, it’s anger. I’m angry,” said Harris.

Norfolk police believe they caught the man who shot them, but Harris still questions the motive for the shooting.

“Was it worth it? Is what you did worth it?” he asked.

Another question comes to mind: where are the guns coming from?

“Typically, many of the cities in Hampton Roads are amongst the highest number of traced firearms in the state of Virginia, particularly,” said Jason Kusheba with the Norfolk branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. 

ATF agents work with Hampton Roads Police officers to solve cases. The bureau uses several programs to track weapons involved in crimes or known as "crime guns."

The first system used by the local department is called the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network or NIBIN. The network provides accurate automated ballistic images.

The other is the Electronic Tracing System or eTrace. The online system allows law enforcement agencies can submit firearms traces.  

In 2020, ATF data shows every city in Hampton Roads ranked at the top of the list for the number of guns recovered. Kusheba leads the ATF task force in Norfolk. He said the agency’s work is not slowing down.

“It means law enforcement is doing their job. They’re making contact with the possession of crime guns and recovering them and taking them off the streets. It is a good thing, but it could also be indicative of a rise of crime guns being present on the street as well,” said Kusheba.

In Virginia Beach, Police Chief Paul Neudigate said many of the guns are stolen.

“A large percentage of handguns that are being stolen out of vehicles, stolen out of residences... you know, we talk about straw purchases and that is definitely something that we’re paying attention to,” said Neudigate.

Harris knows justice will come but closure is long to follow.

“Justice won’t bring my brother back. It just puts another Black man in jail for something stupid he done. When is Virginia going to put something in place to save the kids? It starts when they’re young,” said Harris.

He said his plea for peace and the names of the many victims will live on.

An ATF spokesperson said less than two years ago, the bureau added an office on the Peninsula to combat violent crime which significantly helps overall operations and solving crimes throughout Hampton Roads.

13News Now wanted to know more about the number of guns seized by local police in Hampton Roads.

A spokesperson for Newport News Police Department says they have seized more than 1,159 weapons since 2021.

Suffolk Police Officers have taken 359 guns from 2021 and only 195 of those guns were reported stolen.

Other city police departments and divisions are still working on getting us those numbers.

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