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'A call to action' | Portsmouth holds candlelight vigil as the city grapples with gun violence

The vigil at Portsmouth City Park came as the city ushered in the new year with a string of violent crime.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Dozens of people, of all ages, gathered at Portsmouth City Park Thursday night to remember lives lost, console families and call for an end to gun violence. 

The crowd heard a roll call of the names, each representing a person who died from gun violence in Portsmouth in 2022. 

"We saw our brothers, our sisters and even our children gunned down and murdered," said State Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth). 

"God, we speak right now, we need you in Portsmouth," Overseer Martha Provo of St. Mark Deliverance Center prayed.

Since Christmas, at least five people have died in shootings, and at least two others have been injured.

"This is a call to action for everybody who cares about this city," said newly-appointed Police Chief Stephen Jenkins, who wanted to stay focused on discussing the vigil Thursday night. 

Just hours prior, city officials announced that Interim City Manager Mimi Terry had promoted Jenkins from an interim-basis position to the role of top cop on a permanent basis. 

Law enforcement and city officials are encouraging everyone, and perhaps most importantly parents, to stay engaged. 

"No issue is more important than us working together doing all we can do to stop the gun violence before it happens," said Mayor Shannon Glover. 

The same leaders are also asking people to speak up if they know anything all that can help crime investigators. 

FBI data tracing back to 1985 shows Portsmouth saw a record 42 homicides last year.

Crystal Parker lost her 29-year-old son Robert to a shooting at London Oaks six months ago. Still, no one has come forward in his killing.

"It's hard day by day with my son not here," she said tearfully. "We need justice. My family needs justice. His kids need justice."

Prayers on Thursday night included calls for an end to senseless killings, as well as comfort for grieving family members.

"People needed to see that. It's not just a single group. It is everybody tired of what's going on and they want change," Jenkins added. 

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