PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Portsmouth is experiencing a violent start to the year.
Violent crime is up 56% right now compared to this time in 2021, according to the police department's latest statistics.
In a special work session, city and law enforcement leaders presented solutions to curb the violence.
"It's getting dangerous. People can't go down the street. Kids can't go out and play," said resident Barbeta Terry. "It's hitting home for everybody."
On Tuesday, Terry wanted to hear what council members and local law enforcement plan to do about the surge in crime.
"We're hurting and our citizens are hurting," said Councilwoman Lisa Lucas-Burke.
And during the meeting, Sheriff Michael Moore encouraged everyone to put differences aside, "we start fighting crime by uniting together."
Moore also said he has proposed the implementation of a government program, Operation Legend, that would deploy federal agents to Portsmouth and assist local law enforcement.
This program would come at no cost to the city, according to Moore.
Moreover, Police Chief Renado Prince said his department has activated a task force and plans to again. It also involves a partnership with federal agents.
"What they're very good at is augmenting us when we form task forces. The bonus to what the sheriff is proposing, is that they can sustain it longer," said Prince.
Additionally, a program the city is pursuing seeks to identify and connect with so-called "bad actors."
"They would be given an opportunity to come forward and stop their bad activities," said Mayor Shannon Glover.
Community stakeholders and others are trying to introduce a nationwide program called Project Safe Neighborhood to Portsmouth.
"And as a part of that, we're going to be able to give those individuals resources that will enable them to turn their life around," Glover added.
The mayor said the program would also include focused and strategic enforcement, as necessary.
One priority now is to secure funding for Project Safe Neighborhood, according to Glover.
In the midst of addressing gun violence, some expressed the need to address root causes, such as poverty.
"Fighting crime is not just policing the streets with police officers or sheriff’s deputies. It’s providing opportunities to rid society and our region of poverty," said Sheriff Moore.
“I hope that as we are so much concerned about the gun violence, that we see also the social context in which violence occurs," said Councilman Dr. Mark Whitaker. "People are dying in our nation and across our cities over poverty every day through gun violence.”
While both citizens and city leaders recognize that change won't happen overnight, they believe working together will get it done.
"This is a process," said Prince. "With the people I know ... in this community, the difference is going to happen. There will be change."
The chief also mentioned department teamed up with Norfolk and Chesapeake to use a software program called National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN). It allows investigators to link shell casings or firearms to suspects or other committed crimes.