PORTSMOUTH, Va. — So far this year, violent crime numbers in Portsmouth are stacking up closely, just trailing a little behind this time last year.
Chief Renado Prince said one of his most striking observations is how young some of the gun violence suspects and victims are.
The community is also taking notice.
"We're tired of losing our kids," said one resident and local activist.
Nowadays, Chief Prince said they're seeing less traditional gangs.
"It's about a bunch of young men and women huddling together for safety in certain areas and exchanging shots for, there's no other way to say it, for stupid reasons," he said.
That's why the police department and sheriff's office are keeping up programs in schools.
Chief Prince's team is also focused on holding community engagement walks at least once a month, but he emphasized that they can't always be around.
"We can't do it alone," said Prince.
He empowers other community leaders and grassroots organizers to be part of the solution.
Some are already taking action.
"Y'all as officers can validate us in certain situations and we can validate y'all in certain situations. It's about working together," said local youth advocate Darrell Redmond.
City leaders are also introducing a crime prevention and violence reduction plan.
It's a set of initiatives either happening now or will be implemented by April.
Groups like the housing authority and workforce development are involved.
"It's a 'get right, because we're giving you options,'" said Prince.
To further address gun violence, he mentioned that he's interested in the ShotSpotter technology which has proven success in other Hampton Roads cities like Newport News and Virginia Beach.
He pointed out that, of course, it comes with a hefty price tag. He said he's going to talk to other city leaders to see if it's something that can be implemented in Portsmouth.
On top of other challenges, the force is dealing with a shortage of 70 officers. Chief Prince said they're working on offering more competitive pay.
A new HR employee is focused on recruitment.