CHESAPEAKE, Va. — On Monday, the Mayors and Police officials of the seven cities came together in hopes of stopping violence in Hampton Roads.
The group met inside the Regional Building in Chesapeake for about two hours as part of the Mayors and Chief Administrative Officers Work Session. They discussed challenges and ways to improve public safety in the area.
“I like to be singularly focused on getting something done, and I think the mental health piece is somewhere where we can be focused on getting something done," Portsmouth Mayor Shannon Glover said.
The mayors at the meeting said every city is working to help with mental health concerns.
Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle explained how mental health issues are challenging the court system in his city:
“The amount of defendants that come through the courthouse with mental health issues is just staggering. DHS determined that about 90% of the inmates in Virginia Beach city jail suffer from some form of mental illness," Virginia Beach Commonwealth's Attorney Colin Stolle said.
Stolle said mental health issues can contribute to violence.
“You see the individuals coming through the court system that are suffering from some sort of mental health issue, and that is directly connected to the amount of violence that we see being committed in our communities," Stolle said.
Hampton Roads Planning District Commission Executive Director Bob Crum is the mediator for the meetings. He said law enforcement officials also shared with the mayors a list of other concerns.
They're requesting public safety tool such as cameras that include license plate readers and increased funding for new forensic science tools.
“Some of the things they talked about was the need for enhanced state funding for witness protection programs in our communities. We talked about staffing challenges for both our local police departments and our commonwealth attorneys," Crum said.
But all the Mayors agree they need help from the community to stop the violence.
“We have some obstacles that need to be overcome, and the only [way] that can be is if our citizens get involved and understand those issues and advocate for them," Chesapeake Mayor Rick West said.
The Mayors will meet again to discuss solutions to stop violence in March.
Organizers said before that meeting in March, Mayors are going to speak with mental health professionals to seek solutions to curb the violence. Those mental health officials will be invited to the meeting.