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'We're in an emergency situation' | How Portsmouth city leaders plan to combat violent crime

Portsmouth mayor and council came together to discuss the city’s crime reduction and prevention plan.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Eight days into February, the Portsmouth Police Department has already investigated four homicides this month.

The mayor and council came together to discuss the city’s crime reduction and prevention plan, talking about things that have already had a positive impact and what needs to happen moving forward.

"We're in an emergency situation," Councilman Bill Moody told his fellow councilmembers Tuesday night.

In 2021, the police department investigated 36 homicides and 354 other violent crimes.

RELATED: More than 200 homicides reported in Hampton Roads in 2021

Just last week, the city saw three deaths and four people hurt just within 30 hours.

City Manager Angel Jones said they need to attack crime from every possible angle.

"Use all the resources we have and leverage those resources that deal with it on a long-term basis, not just a short-term basis," said Jones.

Deputy City Manager Mimi Terry laid out some of the strides they've already made as a city. 

She said they’ve already seen success in partnering with local organizations and community activists for teen programs.

As well as adding more lighting, community walks with the police department and mental health crisis response teams.

"Reaching out in the community to pull those people in because a lot of people in the community don’t realize we have this organization or this opportunity for them," she told the mayor and council.

Moving forward, she said they’re hoping to implement more crime prevention technology like ShotSpotter, continue aggressive police officer recruitment and retention programs and expand mental health resources.

They’re also enrolled in a new Bloomberg-Harvard city leadership initiative.

"It’s going to be centered around going into the neighborhoods to the residents and channeling their ideas and putting them into formal programs," said Portsmouth Fire Chief Nestor Mangubat.

The goal of that initiative is to engage citizens and create innovative collaborative projects aimed at reducing poverty, low self-esteem in young people, unemployment, alcohol and drug addiction.

During the presentation, Councilman Dr. Mark Whitaker said he would like to see a large focus on poverty in the city, while Councilman Christopher Woodard said attention needs to be spent on blighted properties.

"We’re trying to balance all the needs and move forward appropriately," Jones told the mayor and council.

As for what you can do starting now to help reduce gun violence in the city —secure your own weapons and lock your cars.

Jones says last year 179 guns were stolen from cars and ended up on the street.

To view the entire presentation, click here.

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