NORFOLK, Va. — Gov. Glenn Youngkin met with law enforcement representatives and mayors from around Virginia to talk about a new initiative Monday.
The press conference at Slover Library in Norfolk was the culmination of roundtables his Violent Crime Task Force has been holding across the Commonwealth.
Youngkin said everyone has a shared mission to make Virginia the best place to live, work, and raise a family, but that those goals weren't possible unless people who live here feel safe.
"This is what it takes. This isn't about a single department or a single level of government; it's an all-of-the-above moment because we find ourselves in an extraordinary time," the governor said.
Youngkin pointed to statistics that show from calendar years 2019-2021, fatal shootings in Virginia went up 39%. Then, comparing the first seven months of 2022 to 2019, fatal shootings were up 61%.
"Every community is unique, and the solution to violent crime must be tailored to the reality on the ground, but we do have three big takeaways from our Violent Crime Task Force work," he said.
He's a big supporter of law enforcement and framed his response around the idea of the "thin blue line."
"Friends, with nearly 40% law enforcement vacancy rates in some cities, with too few prosecutors actually prosecuting, with diminished community engagement and witnesses and victims less willing to come forward, that thin blue line is getting far too thin," Youngkin said.
The Bold Blue Line initiative targets three problems his task force identified:
- There are many vacancies across police departments and sheriff's offices
- There's a lack of prosecutors, and some prosecutors rarely prosecute
- There's a lack of programs for at-risk youth in certain communities
Youngkin said the plan has five actionable steps.
- Build on public safety pay, fix wage compression that exists across law enforcement agencies
- Recruit more officers to the Commonwealth from states where they do not support law enforcement, and create a pipeline of homegrown talent
- Accelerate the pace of the $75 million investment that has already been allocated to training and equipment for law enforcement
- Hire more prosecutors who are willing and able to put violent offenders behind bars, and keep them there
- Increase support for victims and witnesses to violent crime, and invest in community partnerships that can help prevent violent crime in the first place
State Attorney General Jason Miyares also spoke at the presentation.
"Everyone in the community is saying we've had enough," he said. "The impact of crime in our communities is absolutely real. It has been painful and horrific for victims. There is nothing more piercing than the cry of a mother who has lost her child," Miyares said.
He said when people have to look over their shoulders, they don't thrive, and they're not able to pursue their talents and dreams.
Miyares said the full weight of his office will be used to reduce violent crime in 12 "cease fire" cities. That's a concept that's been used to cut back on violence using strategic partnerships between gun safety initiatives, gang prevention, and supporting community policing in high-crime neighborhoods.
The 12 cities are Norfolk, Hampton, Petersburg, Roanoke, Newport News, Portsmouth, Richmond, Chesapeake, Danville, Martinsville, Lynchburg and Emporia.