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'The police can't protect me' | Portsmouth woman grapples with recent gun violence

A string of gun violence in Portsmouth Thursday is creating frustration among neighborhoods. City leaders said they need to come together to tackle crime.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Jennetta has called Portsmouth home her entire life and thought she would live in this house for years to come. 

In an interview Friday, the 50-year-old said just sitting on her front porch no longer brings her joy.

"It's just a different time now that we're living in," she said.

About six and a half years ago, growing gun violence in her neighborhood burst through her home of 17 years.

"In 2015, I was hit by a stray bullet," said Jennetta. "I was inside my home, in my kitchen. Bullet came from London Oaks [apartments] and hit my screen door security gate, bent the gate, ricocheted on the wall, and bounced and hit me in my right leg."

Now in survival mode, Jennetta said the sense of safety within her city is leaving her with every gunshot she hears.

"You can't sit on your porch. My neighbors can't come outside," said Jennetta. "We can't work in my garden as I like to do. Not only that, but you're afraid of getting robbed."

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It's a problem Vice Mayor De'Andre Barnes said doesn't surprise him, including the four separate shootings within 12 hours on Thursday.

He said police are increasing patrols, despite the challenge of staffing shortages. However, he said it comes down to city council members prioritizing the need to tackle crime.

"I don't feel safe in Portsmouth," said Barnes. "What happened last night and what continues to happen in this City of Portsmouth...It just shows the failed policies and the lack of caring. In this city, we care more about the people's positions than our people in our city getting killed."

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Barnes said council members need to focus on helping younger people by investing in youth programs to prevent this gun violence from spreading.

"You have to invest in your future, which is your children," said Barnes. "But you also have to make sure you have jobs in place for your people, because a lot of things that come with crime is poverty."

Jennetta said she now wants to leave her home for a different city, even if it is more expensive. She said the price of staying is not worth the cost of her own life.

"The police can't protect me. No one can," said Jennetta. "It's sad that we have to live in a community like this."

Portsmouth police said a person under the age of 18 suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound Thursday night at the London Oaks Apartments complex. A spokesperson for the department said that shooting appears to be accidental. 

Police have not listed any suspects in connection to the recent shootings.

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