The answer to the crime and violence issue in our city is that there is not a single answer to the question of how we solve this issue.
In fact, none of the issues that we are challenged with here in Norfolk and the Hampton Roads region or even in our own lives have one cause. Therefore, the solution usually is not a single action or event. Certainly a single action or event may be the catalyst for change to take place in the long term, but there still are numerous factors contributing to the issues we face. It should also be understood that we may never be fully free of crime and violence and that the observations here will take time to make our neighborhoods, communities, and city safer.
Here are some major factors I believe that contribute to crime and violence in our city: the prevalence of guns on the street, idle time, concentrated poverty, recidivism, unemployment or underemployment, the drug culture, fear and anti-snitching, a lack of education, mental health issues, limited policing and community resources, parenting issues, and community apathy.
Identifying which factor contributes most to criminal activity rarely can be done accurately at first glance. Each incident has many of these factors and one factor may have more of an influence than another on a different incident. Also, one’s perspective or own life experience may make it more likely for him or her to identify one factor as the main cause, while not even considering other factors.
Therefore the best solution to combat crime and violence is to reduce the impact of each of the factors in our city. We must find a way to get unregistered guns off of the streets and out of the hands of residents engaged in criminal activity. We need an abundance of recreational services and programs to keep our youth and young adults actively engaged in activities that promote health, welfare, good citizenship and other positive characteristics.
We need to give hope to residents with non-violent felony charges so they aren’t likely to choose behaviors or activities that lead to increased criminal activity. We need housing plans and policies that do away with Norfolk’s pockets of concentrated poverty. Of course, we need more jobs that provide living wages for our unemployed or underemployed residents.
The drug culture must be dealt with via resourced policing, prevention and services. Those residents trapped in the cycle of drug abuse and supply the demand for drugs in our city need help. Services to deal with the mental health issues that factor into the crime and violence in our city are also needed. General resourcing issues are needed so that we have ample police, recreational and community resources to meet the demands of attacking these factors before they become contributors to crime and violence in our city.
Lastly, Norfolk has to continue to strengthen the foundation of our city: our neighborhoods and our communities. Each neighborhood and community should have a voice over its own vision, progress and growth. I believe when each community is empowered this way, then apathy and disengagement will decrease. When this happens the residents and the communities become the first line of defense against crime and violence in their neighborhood, making that community and our city safer.
Candidate for SuperWard 7, Norfolk City Council, May 3, 2016 Election