HOPEWELL, Va. (WWBT) - Neighbors in Hopewell are sounding off about an uptick in violence but they’re not just complaining about it, they’re offering solutions.
It comes after two homicides in 2020 already. To put that into perspective, back in 2017, Hopewell only had one homicide all year.
Since January 2019, Hopewell Police brought on 14 additional officers but city leaders say police alone can't stop crime. It's a packed house and concerned neighbors are wanting to see change.
“The last shooting was right around the corner for me…It’s hitting a little too close,” Chris Saladim said.
"Right now we’re trying to figure out what we really need in the city,” Shannon Fosany added.
That’s why they gathered at Carter Woodson Middle School Wednesday to hear from the city to cops.
"In 2018, we had 6 homicides. In 2019, we had 5 and unfortunately this year we already had 2 in a week,” Chief Kamran Afzal said. The police chief said his officers were busy in 2019 when 911 dispatchers received 84 calls for shots fired. "84 is 84 too many but that’s what we’re dealing with,” Afzal added.
Now concerned residents are working together, participating in break out groups to discuss solutions.
"What are the things that are affecting people’s lives that makes them stressed, that make them want to go out and do these things? Is there a lack of opportunities for children? What else is there because it’s not just the act of committing a crime. It’s about the other things that go before it,” Mayor Jasmine Gore told the crowd.
One idea -- more resources for young people who may not be getting what they need at home or school to feel they matter.
"They find it elsewhere in the streets to be able to learn and they’re learning the wrong thing. With that, there’s crime, there’s drugs and it’s overpowering the city,” Fosnay suggested.
Neighbors are asking for a larger police presence and the chief says they’re on it, as he even calls on federal partners to bring criminals to justice.
"Soon we should have individuals in several homicides in custody or at least warrants issued,” Afzal said. The next step is to incorporate all of the feedback from the people who showed up as the police department now works on a strategic plan to move the city forward.
The crime rate in Hopewell exceeds the state average. Right now, the police chief is also meeting with a citizens advisory committee to help guide him on what neighbors want to see more of from their officers.
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