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Portsmouth police provide update on Crime Prevention Plan

In the wake of increasing violence across the city, Portsmouth officials said the city will be reviewing and updating their strategies.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Violent crime is on the rise in Portsmouth, and police say they are looking at new ways to stop the violence. 

The City of Portsmouth announced Friday that the Portsmouth Police Department will work with all available city resources to review and update strategies featured in the Portsmouth Crime Prevention Plan

The plan is an ever-evolving document maintained by PPD and other city resources, including Portsmouth Fire & Rescue and Emergency Services. 

Gun violence, mental health and community engagement are the main focuses.

The city highlighted efforts undertaken in the past few months to take on the issues plaguing the community.

Starting the week of June 20, a Virginia State Police spokesperson said troopers will assist Portsmouth police officers on patrols and investigations. Portsmouth police is also partnering with federal agencies, including the FBI and the ATF. 

According to the city, PPD has increased vehicle, foot and bike patrols in high-crime areas and downtown. The goal of these patrols is to create more community interaction in hopes of stopping crime and retaliation before it happens. 

PPD has also been doing things like community engagement walks and developing training videos for reporting crimes, the city said. 

Firefighters and EMS are also getting in on the efforts to improve community safety. City employees believe that being a part of the community starts with getting involved before an emergency happens, the city said. 

This is accomplished by having a presence at all community events and partnering with community groups like Big Homies, Back Da Block and Stop the Violence 757. 

“I know we can’t go back to old-school policing. But I feel if I am called to this area, they should not just know me by officer. They should know me by my name," said Freddie Taylor, of Stop The Violence 757.

Taylor is one of several community members who hosted an end-of-the-year cookout at Brighton Elementary School Friday. The effort is part of "Project Safe Haven," the group's initiative to mentor students at the school twice per week.

Jarrod Allen is a parent of a Brighton Elementary student and is a school liaison for other families. He coordinated the event with Stop The Violence 757 as part of an ongoing approach to reach parents and kids. As the school's family liaison, Allen provides education and resources to support and engage with parents, including literacy programs. 

“It is our duty and it’s our job to make sure that not only are our parents safe, our kids are safe and what we do here at Brighton Elementary School and making sure they return the very next day," said Allen.

Allen said they strive to teach students to be respectful, responsible scholars and be safe. 

“If we continue to teach this here, when they go home they keep those four elements in mind," he said. 

Portsmouth Police Department leaders said they will seek groups like these to hear new ideas to slow crime in the city. 

Taylor said the city must address its officer shortage, but the entire community needs to be involved. He said the group is working to provide programs for kids and families this summer. 

Taylor said the group will soon launch a QR code to assess the needs of each home and community. They plan to create summer programs to teach etiquette to children and help families receive their GEDs and connect them to trade programs.  

“Because once you bring balance to the home, then you are able to bring balance to the community," he said. “It is going to take the school, city leaders and the community as a whole. But if the leadership doesn’t come to the community except for when something happens, there is no rapport being built.”

Portsmouth officials said they also started the Mobile Integrated Health Program in collaboration with fire, police, behavioral health and social services. The goal of the program is to provide a mobile response center for the physical and mental health needs of the community. 

Gang prevention training for school resource officers, applications for federal grants and staffing adjustments are other efforts the city is making in order to have a more responsive infrastructure in place, Portsmouth officials said. 

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