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13News Now Investigates: Business owners sound off on Downtown Norfolk crime in survey

We asked about everything from a "Gun-Free Granby Street" to midnight curfews. This is what business owners said needs to be done.

NORFOLK, Va. — Author's note: The video above is on file from a Norfolk City Council meeting on March 22.

Thirteen people have been shot on Granby Street in the past year. A spilled drink led to the death of two of those shooting victims this month. 

City leaders in Norfolk are saying "enough is enough," and business owners seem to agree something needs to change. 

13News Now Investigates sent an online survey to downtown business owners with the option to remain anonymous. We heard back from 40 of them, and got some insightful comments about how to best curb crime. 

The results of this survey, while unscientific, offer direct insight from those best connected to downtown issues and most affected by any changes.

Concerned Business Owners

Our survey asked if business owners are concerned with losing business in light of recent events on Granby Street. Half of them (51%) "strongly agreed" with that concern, another 33% "agreed." Only 10% "strongly disagreed."

But when we asked if they've considered moving their business because of crime, the majority (54%) disagreed, opting to stay put. About a third (33%) said they've thought about moving.

One downtown business owner of 20-plus years wrote: "unless serious steps are taken to enforce public safety, I will sadly be moving."

We asked if businesses have an obligation to help curb crime. The majority of respondents (77%) believe they do. 

One bar owner wrote: "We have security personnel, security cameras, we wand all customers and we stop the sale of drinks early. What I cannot control is people leaving my establishment and committing crimes... Punish the people committing the crimes, not the establishment."

Councilwoman Courtney Doyle said last week “We don’t have control of our downtown.” Seventy-five percent of business owners said they either "agree" or "strongly agree" with that dire assessment. Only 5% "strongly disagreed."

One business owner wrote: "With the new casino coming, we better get a hold on our city."

What is the solution?

Our survey asked if an enhanced police presence would help curb crime on Granby Street. The answer was overwhelmingly yes, with 77% who "strongly agreed," and another 15% who "agreed."

One business owner suggested: "Not the police officers we typically think of, more of nightlife ambassadors."

Our survey also asked if business owners support metal detectors or pat-downs for their customers. Responses were roughly split, with 53% who "disagree" or "strongly disagree." 

One person wrote: “Close businesses that feel they have the need to have armed security and the need to search their customers.”

We saw a similar response when we asked about closing businesses at midnight. The majority (56%) disagreed with a midnight curfew making a difference.

One business owner said: “It’s just a band-aid. And it’s a terrible look for tourism.”

Another pointed out that “Violence can happen any time of the day.”

City Council members last week discussed the idea of a "Gun-Free Granby Street." In our survey, 62% of business owners said they would support that, while 15% disagreed with the suggested solution.

One person said that’s just a buzz phrase, writing "There’s no way to actually enforce that."

Another asked, “How does this work, are you going to stop and frisk?”

When it comes to outdoor surveillance cameras, 72% of respondents either "agree" or "strongly agree" that would help curb crime.

And when it comes to the city reviewing all existing businesses’ conditional use permits, about half (53%) agree with that option being effective at curbing crime. 

One person wrote: “As long as it's done in fairness without any bias procedures.”

Just three days after five people were shot downtown, Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer said in a City Council meeting, "Whatever it takes, we need to figure this out."

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