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Virginia Beach bucking national trend as violent crime falls in the city

How the area's largest city is using technology and training to keep crime in check.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — March 27th, 2021 was a chaotic night at the Oceanfront as three separate shootings happened near Atlantic Avenue and 21st Street.

Deshayla Harris, an innocent bystander, was gunned down. A Virginia Beach police officer shot and killed Donovon Lynch. Nine others are injured.

"I know that is a perception in the beach, that anytime there is a shooting, I see it on social media, I hear the outcry, that violence is up. Some of it is perception," Chief Paul Neudigate said.

Neudigate said the reality is that while violent crime is up in so many cities, it's down in Virginia Beach. Last year at this time, there were 10 homicides in the city. This year: seven.

There have been 12 shooting victims in Virginia Beach in the last month, compared to 18 in the same period last year. Sixty guns have also been pulled off the streets since April. 

Chief Neudigate said the successes come even as his department is down 120 positions.

"Any police department is going to struggle to do what they've always done when you're down 15 percent of your workforce," he added.

Chief Neudigate said sheriff's deputies will fill in the ranks at the beach as the city faces the busy July 4th weekend. DEA agents have trained Beach Police in best practices to fight violent crime. Sophisticated data is being used to determine how best to use all available resources.

"You can expect there are a lot of eyes on you from a plainclothes perspective, and we identify a lot of individuals through our surveillance who are possessors of firearms who are prohibited possessors," Chief Neudigate promised.

The city's almost $2 million investment in crime-fighting will include close to doubling the number of cameras at the Oceanfront. A gunshot detection system will be added, along with technology to help police trace who's had their hands on guns they pick up.

"Visibility is perfect, but we have to be able to put eyes on areas and eyes on individuals who are engaged in gun violence and hold them accountable," Neudigate said.

But Neudigate said that effectively fighting crime today takes more than manpower and technology. He said his officers need to be held accountable. They need to understand what's required of them to fight crime especially in 2021, adding the killing of George Floyd sent a message to everyone in law enforcement.

"I don't think there's a law enforcement professional out there who can justify what they saw on that tape. It tarnished this profession. It tarnished this profession for years to come," he declared.



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