VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Crime increased more than two percent in Virginia Beach when compared to 2020.
On Tuesday night, Police Chief Paul Neudigate told the Virginia Beach City Council they were the only city in Hampton Roads to see a decrease in homicides, but property crimes remain a large problem.
He said based on the data from 2021, his department is moving the needle on violent crime.
In 2020, there were 17 homicides -- 14 of those involved guns -- with 76% of those cases cleared. That’s compared to 14 homicides in 2021. Eleven of those involved guns with an almost 86% clearance rate.
"We don't take it lightly that we're the safest city per numbers because it'll take one year for that to slip away from us," Neudigate said.
He also said 93% of crimes in the city came from property crimes. There was a 17% increase in car thefts.
"Focusing our efforts on some of the property crimes moving forward will still have some dividends on our efforts to reduce violent crime moving forward."
Neudigate also noted that staffing is a challenge, with the department being down 85 officers, but salary increases have helped attract new recruits.
He also told the council the department will have 28 new recruits hitting the streets on Wednesday and it’s a diverse crowd-- 29% female, 21% African American, 11% Hispanic and 3% Asian.
They are also in the process of doing a staffing study to see what needs to change.
"We are a big city. 46,000 officers, 259 land miles, with a lot of expectations from the community and I think what it will probably show is that our authorized strength is under what we need to fulfill all of the demands of this council and of this community," he said. "We're hopeful that they'll also take a look at how we're structured and look at some of the workload of some of our specialized assignments to make sure that we have the right people in the right positions and that we're really effective and efficient."
Neudigate told the council to retain those officers, they need to keep upgrading their technology.
The police department installed Shot Spotter in the city in 2021 and he said they are pleased with the results so far.
"We're not relying on someone to pick up the phone," he said. "I think not only is it helping us get there quicker, it's helping us identify locations that we did not know that shooting activity was occurring."
He exclusively told 13News Now that just this week, they started installing cameras in all of their 240 marked cars.
"We know there is a lot of concern and angst around traffic stops. We're gonna put those cameras in the car, so that we have an unadulterated understanding of what occurs in those traffic stops."
Neudigate said those cameras will activate automatically when the lights are turned on, a taser is removed, or the back door is opened, among other things.
He also stressed they want to continue to build on transparency and accountability in the department.