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'It's a public health crisis'| Hampton Roads mayors brainstorm ways to curb youth violence in first ever forum

No area of Hampton Roads is immune to youth violence. It’s a glaring problem across the region.

HAMPTON, Va. — No area of Hampton Roads is immune to youth violence. It’s a glaring problem across the region. On Monday for the first time ever, mayors of all 7 cities pulled together in a virtual forum to work on solutions.

Last year, every city in Hampton Roads saw a rise in murders.

“It’s alarming, it’s disturbing,” said Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck.

Violence isn’t slowing down in 2021, especially among young people. Mayor Tuck called all mayors in the 757 to put their heads together.

“I think one of the reasons that we are here is youth violence doesn’t know any border,” said Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer.

Their focus is specific. Mayor Tuck pointed to recent CDC data that found Black males between the ages of 15 to 34 made up two percent of the nation’s population, but 37 percent of the gun murders in 2019.

 “This in fact is a public health crisis,” said Portsmouth Mayor Shannon Glover.

The mayors agree there is no one perfect solution to this problem.

“If we want to give people hope, we have got to come up with the better jobs,” Mayor Dyer said.

Communication and building relationships are key.

“Law enforcement, sheriff’s department has been active in our schools,” said Suffolk Mayor Michael Duman. “They engage with the students.”

“Officers would take our youth to the barbershop,” said Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander. “Spending a Saturday afternoon with them getting their haircut.”

Moving forward, the mayors discussed pulling in available resources to help.

“With the American Rescue Plan coming in, we should take some of that money and put it in our plan for gun violence reduction,” said Newport News Mayor McKinley Price.

But they said the solution, can’t be achieved by law enforcement alone.

“The tribal leaders are going to be those in the community that have earned the respect, that have the resources,” Mayor Glover said.

They want the community to help create role models.

“We have to involve the faith community because their hearts are in the right place,” Chesapeake Mayor Rick West said.

Mayor Tuck also brought in organizers from Cities United to talk with the mayors. Their mission is to support a national network of mayors in reducing homicides and shootings among young Black men and boys ages 14 to 24 by 50 percent.

This was the first time the mayors came together with a forum on this issue, but it won’t be the last. Each mayor expressed the need to meet more and even bring the police chiefs in on the conversation.

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