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Newport News City Council discusses how to tackle increasing gun violence across the city

Council members talked about their next steps. One of them wants to use critical funding to help gun violence prevention groups in the city.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Hampton Roads saw an increase in gun violence in 2021 and Newport News City Council isn’t wasting time in the new year to address it.

On Tuesday, council members talked about their next steps. One of them wants to use critical funding to help gun-violence prevention groups in the city.

Newport News had 30 murders throughout the community in 2021. That’s five more than in 2020.

City officials told the council they want to do a full needs assessment, working together with Christopher Newport University.

Organizations like EmPower All have boots on the ground, reaching people and youth in the community to stop senseless gun violence. Yugonda Sample-Jones leads the group.

“We are trying to feed children, put on programs,” Sample-Jones said. “Try to take them to Busch Gardens all out of our own pockets.”

She said many grassroots groups in Newport News could use a boost from city leaders.

“That is one thing that government can do really well is helping people who are already doing the work become more effective,” said Councilman David Jenkins.

Last month, Jenkins asked the council to set aside $200,000 to help gun violence prevention organizations. Many of his colleagues wanted to discuss the matter in the new year.

“I really thought this would be such a simple, common thing to do,” Jenkins said. “And would be an easy thing to do for Newport News with gun violence being a problem for our city.”

He suggested the city take funds from the more than $66 million it received from the American Rescue Plan Act.

“I am certainly for giving funding to provide the resources in funding for organizations,” said Councilwoman Tina Vick.

During Tuesday’s work session, city officials told the council they are working with Christopher Newport University to conduct a gun violence assessment to see where the most pressing concerns for safety are in the community.

Vick supports discussing the possibilities but hopes to try new ideas, especially when it comes to young people.

“A roundtable that includes not just agencies that work with parents, but parents in the community,” Vick said. “I think having a conglomerate of that would be a winning piece to make our city safer.”

City leaders said once the CNU assessment is complete, they will start giving funding to gun violence prevention groups in the city. They expect the study to be complete around springtime, with funds awarded around July.

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