NORFOLK, Va. — Gun violence was front and center at the Norfolk City Council meeting on Tuesday night.
After five people were shot over the weekend on Granby Street, city leaders are trying to figure out what to do next, while community members and business owners say they no longer feel safe downtown.
"Whatever it takes we need to figure this out," said City Manager Chip Filer.
During the work session, the council heard from the Newark Community Street Team. They hired the team about a year ago to create a plan for curbing gun violence in the city.
"Intervention comes in when prevention has not succeeded," said one woman on the team.
They said they’ve spent the last few days speaking with people in the community. The next step is to present recommendations to the council about training and getting local organizations involved.
"The reality is that police is only one aspect of the public safety system because you can’t have public safety literally without the public," said Aqella Sherills, chairman of the organization.
That's the long-term plan.
In the short term, Sherrills said it’s vital to give the police the resources they need.
"As a council, we have a lot of power. I think we need to exercise it to make our downtown safe," said Councilwoman Courtney Doyle.
She doubled down on her recommendation to make Granby Street a gun-free zone, along with reviewing all existing downtown business’ conditional use permits.
She also wants bars and restaurants to close at midnight instead of 2 a.m.
During the formal session, many business owners expressed their frustrations over the growing crime downtown, including Claude Barnett, who owns Gershwin’s.
"The dollars that come in that late at night, it's not worth the safety of my employees, it's not worth my safety. I want all of my employees out of downtown by 12:30."
Baxter Simmons, who owns Baxter's Sports Bar, told the council that businesses who are following the rules shouldn't be punished with shorter operating hours.
"I hate to see people go and attempt to cut back on hours or cut back on opportunities for businesses like mine that have done what they're supposed to do," he said.
One man who said he lives and works on Granby Street said he is very excited to see more police presence after two people lost their lives.
"Blood now runs through the street of the block of 300 Granby Street because of this."
Sierra Jenkins was one of the two that were killed Saturday morning. Her cousin, Matheau Hall, closed out the night on her behalf.
"People are gonna be out no matter what you do. You can't control a gun in a coward's hand," he said.
He asked for better surveillance downtown to catch whoever did this.
"I advise everyone in this room today, one, enjoy the time you have with everybody around you," he said. "Two, this isn't gonna get better if we don't work together. We can point fingers all day long, but that does not help or change anything. We have to work together because my cousin's life at 25 years old-- she should not be getting buried by her family."