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Virginia Beach Police Chief offers update on technology initiatives

From Shotspotter, e-ticketing and cameras, Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate laid out tools meant to improve policing and efficiency at the department.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A commitment to improving technology initiatives in the fight against crime served as the resounding message from Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate during a Tuesday afternoon presentation. 

He and members of his department presented projects happening now and in the near future in front of city council members.

"I want to be a leader in the use of technology as a force multiplier," said Neudigate, who also told 13News Now the department previously fell behind on technology initiatives. He vowed to change the course.

"We have 17 or 18 ongoing technology projects," said Neudigate. 

As of this summer, surveillance at the Oceanfront significantly grew. The number of cameras in the Resort Area bumped up to 72, compared to 30 in 2018.

When it comes to body-worn cameras, all sworn officers are equipped. A change in department policy states they must activate their BWCs when they are called for service, not when they arrive at the scene.

Police also touted the use of its own ballistics comparison program National Integrated Ballistic Information Network or NIBIN. Turnaround time for that information has been cut from months into hours. 

"We're now able to get those results within 72 hours. That's a dramatic improvement. It vastly increases the likelihood of us intervening and apprehending the suspect," said Captain Billy Zelms. 

And according to Zelms, the gunshot detection system ShotSpotter in the Western Bayside and Oceanfront areas has led to 21 arrests and two dozen guns recovered since installation in 2021. 

"With that gun crime data, we're also planning expansion," said Zelms. 

Moreover, Neudigate told 13News Now additional ShotSpotter activations are on the way this fall in the areas of Green Run and Twin Canal.

"If the community is only calling us 20% of the time, where do we know to focus our efforts? If we really want to be data-driven and evidence-based in our violence reduction strategies, we can't be missing 80% of the data set. So, this helps us to identify repeat locations that we didn't know about, develop strategies around them. It also keeps officers safe," the chief said.

Both Neudigate and Zelms touched on the importance of building community trust with the use of ShotSpotter.

"We might not always find a person [suspect], but at least the community knows we care, that we are responding, that we are trying to intervene in gun violence," Zelms added. 

Virginia Beach police said they also plan to introduce a new electronic ticketing or e-ticketing program next month. It is meant to increase efficiency for both officers and court staffers. 

Additionally, Neudigate also told city council the department is short 75 officers. However, 45 are currently in the academy. That number could slim down closer to graduation. 

Neudigate's team touted ongoing recruitment and retention efforts.

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