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What's behind the surge in violence across Hampton Roads?

One expert tells 13News Now there are several factors contributing to the rise in violent crime across Hampton Roads.

NORFOLK, Va. — Across the country and throughout Hampton Roads, violent crime is on the rise.

Bobby Kipper, executive director of the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence, said it’s hard to pinpoint a single factor contributing to the issue. Kipper worked as an officer with the Newport News Police Department for more than two decades.

He says the pandemic is partly to blame.

“We went through a really elapsed time where people were inside a lot. People were having to be involved in relationship issues that they're probably not happy with," Kipper said. "Policing is at a crossroads right now and so it's very, very difficult to judge exactly the enforcement level." 

In Newport News, there have been 458 violent crimes in 2021, as of June 20th. It's 12% higher than the number of violent crimes by June 20th of 2020, when the city had 408 violent crimes. 

Norfolk had 48 homicides in 2020. So far, this year is shaping up to be just as violent, with 23 homicides.

Dr. Antonio Passaro, a criminal justice professor at Tidewater Community College, said improving education and training within police departments is the key to lowering violent crime.

“It goes back to that lack of trust and support,” said Passaro. “We have to reimagine how law enforcement is going to work going forward. It is going to continue happening, but how do we change it? It's the top-down approach. If we have high command, what the bottom sees is gonna follow the top.”

Beyond the challenges of policing and the isolation brought on by the pandemic, Kipper said there’s another major factor behind the rise in violent crime.

“We really need to talk about the easy access to firearms and the illegal market of firearms throughout communities, and Hampton Roads is not immune to that,” said Kipper.

Both experts agree on this: it’s time to take on a different approach when it comes to policing. The new approach must be centered on the people in communities and building trust around them.