Hopewell sees reduction in crime after launching new program

Violent crime is down in Hopewell, according to the city’s police department.
Published: Sep. 4, 2023 at 5:32 PM EDT
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HOPEWELL, Va. (WWBT) -Violent crime is down in Hopewell, according to the city’s police department.

They say that one of the reasons for that decrease is because of a new program that started earlier this summer, which uses a unique approach to help curb violence.

Earlier this summer, the Hopewell Police Department partnered with community partners to launch Project Safe, Alive and Free. The program is used to identify people most likely to be shot or involved in a shooting and work with them one-on-one to get them out of a life of crime.

The department says it’s been showing results.

Coordinators have been working with 15 people over the summer who qualified for the program. Those clients were contacted and agreed to join. They now receive services like life coaching, jobs and even food.

“The main thing we do with them as soon as we start dealing with them is just go over their life goals,” said Maurice Washington, a violence prevention coordinator.

Program coordinator Donyel Burrell says that when he works with clients, he often sees signs of them wanting a better life for themselves. He recalls one client he worked with who desired to change early on in the program when he took him to lunch.

“He was packing up his food, and I said you don’t eat a lot, do you? And he was like, no, I want to take this to my daughter. I told him that same spirit he has to protect her. You have to use that to stay on the streets and stay out of jail,” Burrell said.

Hopewell Police Department says it is seeing results because the program helps reduce retaliation shootings.

According to the police department, each shooting typically leads to four more due to retaliation. Project SAF is starting to turn major results with a decrease in shootings compared to last summer.

“During 2022, from June 1st to now, we had four homicides, so this year we’re sitting at one, which is unfortunate, but it is a reduction,” explained Deputy Chief Donnie Reid.

That statistic doesn’t include the officer-involved shooting that happened last week. As coordinators look ahead to the future of Project SAF and improvements to be made, they say they’re already thinking about expanding out to other parts of the tri-cities.

“We’ve had conversations with other leaders in other localities, and we plan to meet soon so that we can continue those conversations,” said Reid. “Crime has no boundary between city or county, so those relationships will definitely help.”

Another way coordinators are looking to expand this program is by trying to find more job opportunities for clients.

They’re asking employers who may be looking to hire people to reach out if they’re interested in getting involved with the Project SAF program.