NORFOLK, Va. — Leaders in Norfolk have been working diligently to slow down the rate of gun violence in the Hampton Roads area.
Norfolk Police Department Chief Larry Boone held a press conference Friday, Jan. 14, to talk about how they are working with other law enforcement agencies and groups to stop the illegal flow of guns through the community.
Boone called it a "public health crisis" and said that there have been over a thousand homicides in the area since 1989.
Norfolk police have recovered 3,885 guns in the years from 2017 to 2021, Boone added. He said he wants to address the flow of where the gun violence starts -- meaning, he wants to find out where the guns were purchased to prevent further crimes.
“I want to thank the women and men of this department. You have no idea the amount of guns they take off the streets every night," Boone said.
Charlie Patterson, Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) spoke at the meeting. He said his department has been designated to help reduce gun crime.
According to Patterson, the ATF plans to hold people in the gun-selling business accountable. They will be monitoring every firearm transaction as a safety measure.
"The Hampton roads area ranks extremely high with the respect of firearm recoveries throughout Virginia," said Patterson.
Many of the cases that were investigated in the past involved illegal firearms trafficking and straw purchases (which is the term for people making false statements on forms to buy guns illegally, or buying guns to later give them to people who shouldn't have them).
Patterson said one of the most recent straw purchasers was a former Norfolk State University student who purchased 45 guns over the course of one year. At least 15 of those guns were recovered in crime scenes in Virginia and other states.
Chief Boone believes policy changes and community involvement will help. Moving forward he said his team is cracking down on suppliers.
“The only way we are going to change behavior is if we start focusing on those few people and businesses that engage in said behavior," Boone said.
The city plans to continue working with not only law enforcement but also clergy, non-profits and community members on "Project Safe Neighborhood."