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Portsmouth police chief holds first community forum since officially taking on role

Chief Jenkins also brought some of his captains to the podium to talk everything from clearing homicides, to crimes involving cars.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — More than two weeks since officially swearing into the role of police chief in Portsmouth, Stephen Jenkins spent some time with the community Wednesday night.

In a public forum alongside members of his department, Chief Jenkins answered questions and addressed concerns surrounding violence.

RELATED | Newly sworn-in Portsmouth Police Chief lays out vision for department, city

Since January 1, Portsmouth has seen four homicides. Those come on the heels of 42 killings in 2022, the most in recorded history for a one-year time span citywide.

Data from Portsmouth police showed 18 incidents from last year cleared by an arrest, three deemed justified and 18 still active cases. A scene, although with multiple victims, would still be considered one incident. 

RELATED | 13News Now Investigates: A record number of homicides in Hampton Roads

Investigators reminded the importance of reporting tips.

"Somebody knows someone or something, as insignificant as you might think it is," said Capt. C. Bennett of the investigations bureau.

Additionally, Bennett outlined two large areas of concern; one being commercial robberies targeting convenience stores, specifically 7/11s and Dollar Generals. 

"We believe the same person has been involved in some other similar establishments in some other surrounding cities," said Bennett. 

And the second big concern he shared was with larcenies from Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority stores. 

"We have done a couple of special ops in the last few months," Bennet added. 

"Larcenies shoplifting ... that drives just about everything property crime related in Portsmouth," said Capt. R. Venters. 

Venters shed light on a total of 534 catalytic converter thefts in 2022. Year-to-date numbers showed 27, according to his presentation slide. 

Moreover, data surrounding guns stolen from cars, mostly unlocked, took the audience aback.

"The fact that we got 200 missing from vehicles is a problem," said Jenkins, who rounded up from a reported 198 firearms reported stolen from vehicles citywide in 2022. 

"We talked how many homicides we've had, how many shootings we've had, that people don't die is significantly higher than the number of people that have died, they're getting guns from cars, people leaving guns in their cars, people leaving them at home, unattended," Venters added.

Jenkins also took time to tell the crowd of roughly two dozen citizens why they might be noticing more traffic stops. 

"The way that many of our crimes are being committed are associated with vehicles. They transport guns with vehicles, they're leaving crimes in vehicles and the opportunity for us to stop as many of these vehicles as possible is the reason for the increased traffic stops," the chief said.

Some citizens who attended told 13News Now they left the forum feeling empowered, to continue doing their part. 

"We need to get everyone involved. Like [Chief] said, be part of supportive authority, challenge others to step up and model the way for these children," said Genoa Everett, a Portsmouth resident, father of six, involved leader with local PTAs and a civic league, as well as a violence interrupter in the city. 

RELATED | 'Violence interrupters' work to keep Portsmouth teens out of trouble

One citizen also brought up the new Rivers Casino Portsmouth with Jenkins. He said casino officials are giving them the space for a substation, allowing them to keep up with an increased presence in the area and install surveillance cameras of their own there.

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