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'We are better than this' | Newport News Police Chief addresses recent gun violence in the city

Newport News’ police chief is addressing gun violence head-on after three people in his city died because of it in the span of a week.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Author's note: The video above is on file from Dec. 20, 2021.

Newport News’ police chief is addressing gun violence head-on after three people in his city died because of it in the span of a week.

Chief Steve Drew spoke directly to the community in a virtual forum.

"We are better than this, our communities are better than this," Drew said.

Police officers said someone shot Gabriel Elisha Wright Monday, Dec. 13. A day later, officers said 18-year-old Demari Batten shot and killed 17-year-old Justice Dunham outside a basketball game.

"Two families now have lost loved ones because of that incident at Menchville High School," Drew said.

This past weekend, someone killed Lewis Watkins III. That was after a unity march the day before.

“We had a homicide not too far from where we walked,” he explained.

Drew said investigators don’t have a suspect in Watkins’ killing, but he was confident they will soon.

"We know that individuals in that apartment complex, we believe several individuals have key information and we need them to come forward," Drew said.

Drew addressed community concern during his monthly "Chat with the Chief" on Facebook.

This year, he said there have been 28 homicides in Newport News, which is up from last year. He said his officers have been solving most of them.

"Our homicide clearance rate is almost 80%, that is unheard of,” Drew said. “The national average is almost 60%.”

Drew said in areas where there are repeated issues, the department uses special strategies and technology with the goal of preventing more violence.

But he said community involvement is key to make a bigger impact.

"'Chief what’s the solution?' I can tell you the solution is multiple entities, individuals, and groups coming together to address gun violence," Drew said.

The Newport News Police Department is looking for new recruits.

On Dec. 21, Drew said his department was down about 45 officers.