Beyond the Crime: CPD, community organizations and Commonwealth’s Attorney working to stop gun violence
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Police, community organizations, and the Commonwealth’s Attorney are working to stop gun violence in Charlottesville.
“It’s fair to say that over the last probably four years that it’s steadily increased. We’ve had some spike years. I think 2020 was a fairly high year. 2022, we had another spike,” Captain Tony Newberry with the Charlottesville Police Department said.
Each shooting is often followed by online chatter, but then there is silence.
“It seemed like nobody gives it attention ‘till you get a couple people shot or killed,” B.U.C.K Squad Executive Director Herb Dickerson said. “Like right now, people think it’s a calm going on, but it’s really not.”
“You can’t just think, ‘Oh, ain’t no body shooting.’ No, the gangs still here, the guns still here, everybody still here,” B.U.C.K Squad Assistant Executive Director Bryan Page said.
Dickerson and Page are united in the attempt to cease the killings. Their team works in neighborhoods, talking with people, and trying to keep the peace even after losing one of their own this year to gun violence.
“Us being former members of the street, and some of us participating in some violence, we knew we were the ones to make a halt to it,” Dickerson said. “Not to say we can stop it all, but we have stopped quite a bit of it.”
However, it goes beyond the crime: “Gun violence start at early age,” Page said. “The trauma that’s going on inside some of the households and out here in the society. So we want to try to cut it off right there.”
“There definitely been more of a trend towards younger individuals, you know, early teens and the late teens that are more and more often picking up firearms,” Newberry said.
The city’s Commonwealth’s Attorney, Joe Platania, is working to stop it from the other side.
“The mayor of New York City recently said there are many rivers that feed the sea of violence, and we must dam each and every one. And I like that quote, and I think that’s what we try and do as prosecutors along with our partners in law enforcement,” Platania said. “[The kids] have to understand that they’re putting themselves and others at risk when they pick up a gun.”
NBC29 analyzed hundreds of shots fired calls, narrowing those down into instances where a gun was involved and a report was made. That data shows that the most CPD response to gun shots in 2019 came from the Hardy Drive area. That shifted in 2020 to First Street South, over to Prospect Avenue area in 2021, and back to Hardy Drive in 2022.
“Same kid is still going through the same poverty, still lack of education. It’s all types of areas that these people lack that causes gun violence,” Page said.
“We’ve definitely seen where it appears to be two neighborhoods pitted against each other, and they’re not the entire neighborhood. It’s usually a handful of individuals that have personal issues that are just not being resolved in a healthy way,” Newberry said.
CPD is trying to address this through working to build up its staff which they say will allow them to build relationships with the community.
“We want there to be a comfort level where you know that this officer is going to be on foot patrol during this time and they’re going to come by and say, ‘Hi,’ and they’re going to be checking on things in a preventative way,” Newberry said.
The B.U.C.K Squad says it continues to work to connect with the community and find ways to combat what they say is a violence health issue.
“You can go six months without a shooting, but guess what? The same kids that we’re talking about, the at-risk youth, they got guns every single day. So every day could could be a possible murder,” Page said. “Our objective is to change their mind states, but this is a process that might take 10 years. This is a long term. This is how we have to think as a community.”
The Charlottesville Police Department is also planning to shift patrolling tactics as it grows its staff. The department says its moving towards breaking up the city into North, Central and South so there can be more officers in each area, instead of just per district. The goal is to have communities get to know the officers in their area, so people are comfortable talking about ongoing problems and potential solutions.
Maps of CPD Shots Fired Calls where a gun was involved and a report was made:
This only includes CPD verified reports of shots fired. The data was sorted to exclude instances where reports were not taken, not verified or unfounded.
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