Community at Petersburg crime meeting: 'This needs to stop!'

Community at Petersburg crime meeting: 'This needs to stop!'
Source: NBC12

PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - The Petersburg Police chief answered questions from angry residents on Wednesday, who say they're fed up with the uptick in crime.

There have been three homicides in just the last two weeks. One was just a night earlier - a beloved convenience store owner gunned down - leaving many heartbroken.

The community says they not only want answers, they want to be a part of the solution.

Comforted by her own son, Melvina Smith look the police chief straight in the eye.

"It's hard when you have to pick your kids up from school early, because they don't want to walk home, because they're scared," said Smith.

She's not the only one emotional about crime. So is her 11-year-old.

"I just hope we can stop the violence," said Zaire Smith-Robinson.

"We can't have peace if no one's speaking up and standing up for themselves and others," said 9-year-old Joshua McLaughlin.

They're angry over one shooting death last week and two more this week. Tuesday night, the owner of a corner store was shot and killed. Customers called him Abdul.

The convenience store was not open for business Wednesday. Customers who showed up were greeted with locked doors and a host of balloons, as customers offered condolences.

"We made a relationship with the owner of this store that was unbreakable," said customer Joi Bowles.

Police Chief Ken Miller says they are working to curb crime.

"Last Thursday or Friday, we destroyed about 110 firearms. Those firearms were illegal firearms," said Miller

That was after last week's homicide at the Pin Oaks apartments.

"What we've done since then, we've deployed our officers a little bit differently."

Instead of police checking in at their precincts each day, they'll report directly to the neighborhoods they'll patrol, in an effort to help build trust for a community that's begging for it.

"The police officers say 'oh, its hard for us to figure out what happened when people don't want to talk,' but we don't want to talk because we don't feel comfortable with you guys, because y'all not making us feel like that," said one neighbor at the meeting. "No police officer would talk to us just to see how you're doing, just to make sure everything's okay."

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