PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Tuesday night, Portsmouth Police Chief Stephen Jenkins did not mince words during his presentation to city council members about recent crime stats in the city.
“We all need to say enough is enough,” Jenkins said. “We shouldn’t have another meeting like this until we have a situation where we can sit down and put professionals in the room. Whether we get the best and brightest or whomever, and just sit down and look at what issues can we address.”
Chief Jenkins had a strong message to Portsmouth city council members about recent homicides.
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“Those homicides, in my opinion, were nothing more than domestic terrorism within our city, committed by cowards,” Jenkins said.
According to Jenkins, there are 28 homicide victims from Jan. 1 through Sept. 17 of this year. In his report he said 27 of them are related to gun violence, and one victim died after someone sold them drugs.
Jenkins clarified that the above numbers are excluding one homicide victim in an officer-involved shooting.
During the same time frame in 2022, there were 28 gun violence homicides.
Jenkins said the city is seeing a 1.9% increase in total violent crime in the same time frame comparing 2022 to 2023. But the rate of increase is actually slowing, because during the same time frame comparing 2021 to 2022, there was a 17% increase in violent crime.
“The crime is actually not increasing, but slowing,” Jenkins said.
Chief Jenkins also talked about the city cracking down on crime through technology and rolling out more tools to tackle crime.
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“We are making progress,” Jenkins said. “This is not a story of doom and gloom. This is Portsmouth trying to turn the corner.”
Angela Britt and Debra Jones know the pain of loved ones killed in gun violence.
Britt’s grandson, Ashanti Britt, died last year.
“It’s been hell,” Britt said. “It’s been hell and back. Every day is a struggle.”
Jones’s son, Jamel Howell, was killed in 2019.
“Death don’t have a name, or color, or address,” Jones said. “When it comes to you, it comes to you.”
Some Portsmouth council members brought up the idea of creating a task force for crime and gun violence reduction in the city.
“The citizens of our community are suffering. People are losing their life,” Vernon Tillage said. “I think it’s high past time for council to have done something, but it takes a collaborative approach.”
“I think it is time that we put a structure in place, call it a task force, call it what you want to,” Mark Hugel added.
“We do need to have a better, continuous, collaborative effort in terms of following up with one another,” Mayor Shannon Glover said.
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Council members ended up voting to add the item onto their next meeting’s agenda.
For Britt and others, it’s something they’d like to see.
“If they’re going to get a board or commission, they should have people who are actually going to do work on the ground,” Cedric Cradle said.
“They need to do something. Something needs to be done, and not just talk about it,” Britt added.
Portsmouth city council members will be meeting again next Tuesday where the crime and gun violence reduction task force will be on the agenda.