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Civil rights attorney Ben Crump visits Norfolk for forum on crime and justice

City leaders also shared ideas on how they're working to fight crime in Norfolk.

NORFOLK, Va. — Famed civil rights attorney Ben Crump came to Norfolk today to lead a conversation on crime.

Downtown Norfolk business owner Tony Brothers' "Men for Hope" organization hosted the forum at Norfolk State University.

Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander and Interim Norfolk Police Chief Michael Goldsmith also attended to discuss what city leaders are doing to fight crime. 

“That’s what it’s about. It’s about equal justice," Crump said to applause.

Dozens of people showed up to hear him speak at the forum called “A Conversation on Justice in America."

Crump's message was simple: it takes everyone, working together, to find working solutions.

“Let’s try to come up with solutions and let’s not try to blame anybody," Crump said. "The blame game is so easy to do. The easiest thing in the world is to be a critic.”

Chief Goldsmith shared one initiative his department is exploring to address the issue. “One of the things we’re doing in bringing in a company called Safe Night,” Goldsmith said. He said the department is “investing heavily” in a project involving the company, which specializes in working with public safety agencies to improve interactions with the public.

He said leaders with the program will education Norfolk business owners on what they can do to make their businesses safer.

“Training your security to do de-escalation to make sure that we’re not engendering fights inside the establishment," Goldsmith said. "Which is what generally happens, somebody gets into a fight, they go back to their car and they get a firearm and then the shootings start.”

Goldsmith said the city is also exploring possible drone surveillance downtown but explained the idea is still in the beginning stages and nothing is set in stone, just yet.

Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander said the city is exploring different long-term and short-term solutions to fighting crime across the entire city.

“Yes there’s a focus on Granby Street because of the recent uptick in violence along Granby Street, but crime, public safety, continues to be a top priority for the [entire] city of Norfolk," Alexander said.

Brothers said he wanted to change the conversation around crime and bring people together to discuss ideas.

“It’s crime everywhere and Ben is a friend of mine so I said let me bring Ben in," he said. “It’s a deeper problem than just the fact there’s a shooting. Why is there a shooting?”

Today’s forum was part of Brothers’ annual “Men for Hope Celebrity Weekend.” The yearly event brings well-known leaders together with the community to uplift residents with workshops, panel discussions, and other free resources.

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