NORFOLK, Va. — Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander kicked off his State of the City Address focused on the growing crime across the city. He said the past three years, city leaders have noticed a growth in gun violence and other crimes.
Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone told 13News Now his department has more than 200 vacancies. On Wednesday, City Manager Chip Filer announced Chief Boone is retiring.
In wake of these recent developments, the mayor said it's time to re-focus law enforcement strategies.
In his State of the City Address, Mayor Alexander acknowledged the need for a bigger law enforcement presence, especially in Downtown Norfolk.
With the staffing shortages within the police department, the mayor said he wants to create more incentives for officers to stay on the force. He said this starts with a 5% pay increase for all city workers in the new budget proposal and an even higher increase for officers with more than six years of service.
"This will ensure that the city has the most trained and committed police officers and public safety officers serving our neighborhoods and citizens," Mayor Alexander said. "We want to address what we are hearing regarding pay inequities, and also investment in equipment and training for our officers, recruitment, retention and pay, so they can retire here."
However, the mayor said he wants to establish longer-term solutions. Some of those include expanding the use of license-plate readers to better track illegal guns brought into the city limits, as well as using LED bulbs for better lighting in neighborhoods to deter crime.
"We are working on updating cameras in our parking garages and increasing police presence within our city to ensure that every public space in Norfolk is safe," the mayor said during the address.
On a community-based level, the mayor said city leaders are partnering with the Newark Community Street Team to connect with city services and organizations.
"We will partner with our schools, our faith-based organizations, our civic leagues, non-traditional leaders and governmental organizations in efforts to address violence," Mayor Alexander said.
The mayor said he only learned about Chief Boone's retirement through the city manager and said the announcement took him and others by surprise.
He said he understands the challenge to address crime following Chief Boone's retirement and plans to work with the interim chief to continue community engagement and safety efforts.
Mayor Alexander also addressed the $90 million investment with MetroNet to bring high-speed internet. He said construction is currently underway and the City of Norfolk is about two to three years away from officially becoming the first city in the Commonwealth of Virginia to have this service.
In addition, the mayor acknowledged the redevelopment of neighborhoods to turn them into mixed-use and mixed-income housing units.
He said city leaders will officially break ground at the Tidewater Gardens redevelopment project by the end of this month.