HOPEWELL, Va. (WWBT) - Hopewell city leaders are calling on citizens to come together to end the spree of violence in the city.
Hopewell Police, city councilors, Virginia State Police and ATF held a news conference Friday afternoon addressing the rash of violence the city has seen over the last few weeks.
A lot of focus has been on the murder of Richmond Fire Lieutenant Ashley Berry, however, city officials said several other families are hurting as well.
“Our condolences go out to all the families who have suffered from gun violence recently,” said Chief of Police Kamran Afzai.
On November 15, Earl Thomas Osborne, 35, was killed at a home on Atlantic Street. Investigators have arrested 21-year-old Deante Henry in connection to Osborne’s murder.
However, since then, police said there has been a string of crimes including burglary, robbery, homicides which have left citizens fed up.
"For the folks who are involved in it, the community is watching now,” said Laura Sutton, who works at GunCotton Coffee & Gallery in downtown Hopewell. “We have eyes out and everyone is aware and we want to stop this."
Sutton said the violence that's happened over the last week and half is the talk of the city.
“Everybody in the cafe today has been talking about it,” she added. “They’re worried, they’re scared and we’re wondering what we can do as a community.”
“[I’m looking at] creating a neighborhood watch for our ward,” said Ward 3 Councilor Johnny Partin. “So far I’ve had 12 people in the last 12 hours come to me and say yes we’d like to be a part of something like this, we want to make sure our neighborhood stays safe.”
While Ward 3 in the city doesn’t see as much crime as other areas, Partin said the community needs to come together to address the violence across the entire city.
"We’re not going to stand for these acts of violence, we’re not going to give into this type of maliciousness,” he added.
“We can prove that we will not tolerate crime from any source within our boundaries,” said Hopewell Mayor Jasmine Gore at a news conference Friday. “We can stand united to have a prosperous city where we can feel safe by all of us being involved.”
According to Hopewell Police, while there’s been a lot of crime recently since Thanksgiving, overall crime is down nearly 20% from this time last year.
“Looking at statistics from 2010, crime is actually down 137% from that time,” Afzai said.
However, Afzai said some of the violence the city has seen recently may be connected to a few of the cases.
“That’s why ATF is here because they’re helping us do forensic analysis on some of the things recovered, but we believe three or four of them are about the same issue,” he said.
As the city prepares for a big football game and holiday parade this weekend, citizens remain on high alert.
“We’re not going to let it break us,” Sutton said. “We’re going to pull through. Hopewell is going to rise above it.”
City leaders and law enforcement encourage the public to contact authorities if they see crime happening in their area.
“If we want to take back our neighborhoods, we cannot remain silent about who is committing the crimes within them,” Gore said. “Whether it’s outsiders or those who live among us in our communities."
Resident Agent in Charge for ATF Richmond, Scott Fulkerson, said on any given day there are two to 15 agents in the city of Hopewell assisting authorities. Fulkerson said as a result of the ongoing violence, they will continue to have agents in the city as a resource for HPD.
“ATF will dedicate more resources in the form of special agents and intelligence resource specialists to utilize crime gun intelligence in an effort to stop the recent uptick in gun violence in this city, ” Fulkerson said.
Friday, Hopewell Police also announced they have a “person of interest” in custody in connection to the deadly shooting of Lt. Berry. At this time no charges have been filed, but he faces charges in unrelated crimes.
“We can prove that we will not tolerate crime from any source within our boundaries. We can stand united to have a prosperous city where we can feel safe by all of us being involved,” Gore said.
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