Gangs, guns, drugs, violence, and other crimes affect communities nationwide on a daily basis. Norfolk is not immune to this public safety cancer, and unfortunately, it doesn’t stop at the key players involved. Spontaneous, emotional acts of violence occur in every community and affect us all. Although the Norfolk Police Department has the primary responsibility of responding to and suppressing these violent acts, we alone cannot change the behavior or actions of the individuals that encompass our community. Therefore, our communities, neighborhoods, families, and parents must instill in our youth a sense of ownership for their actions. Our youth must learn right from wrong before the street mentality gains influence over household morals. Gone are the days of resolving a strife, person to person, with the only violence being sharp words or a closed fist. Respect, or lack thereof, has since climbed the street mentality and ethics to mean a trigger pulled and a life lost is a primary method in battling conflict.
This mentality must be eradicated and it begins within each and every community.
Well before the call is made to dispatchers that an argument went too far. Well before a person pulls a trigger to define their version of respect. Well before the small children in the home witness their mother, father, brother or sister gunned down is a decision that’s made and a mindset that’s been created over a span of time.
We are a culmination of our experiences. Everything we’ve ever witnessed from the sidelines or felt and seen firsthand, creates and shapes our minds. When children are brainwashed into thinking street credibility and respect are life sources, they begin believing that street credibility and respect are their life sources. The problem with street credibility and neighborhood respect is that, quite often, it doesn’t live long. The sensation of fear, power and respect ebb and flow, coming and going, dependent on the current tide. When one person leaves, another steps into place to gain a title or demonstrate how worthy they are to be feared.
For what? The gang, the guns, the drugs, the continued violence? None of this lasts. I’ve told young minds you don’t see old gang-bangers. I ask them why, and they simply shrug their shoulders. I tell them it’s because very few live long enough to share their stories. Their violence commonly results in violent endings, and pulls the plug on a life that had much more to offer than claiming a street during the blink of an eye.
Some of us are given chances and opportunities to rise above. Some are pulled back into this cycle only to watch it replay in reality. But how do we change what appears to be a revolving door of crime and violence? I say “we” because this issue is not just about the community or just about the police. The police and the community are one. We must change our tolerance. We must stand to give our youth and future leaders a strong voice. We must decide that silence and waiting for others to fix a generation becoming immune to violence is unacceptable.
We are the ones we have been waiting for.
There are many community members that have intimate knowledge of what’s going on around them. Whether the crime began at their front door, or happened blocks away, neighborhoods talk. They aren’t silenced. They are vigilant and have an intimate understanding of the key players involved and the person or people committing violence to or around them.
When social media feeds are filled with witnesses sharing their stories, local media outlets need only put a microphone near someone to hear a supposed firsthand account of the events that occurred. It’s these same witnesses, same voices, same community members that are silenced when police ask the same questions. What once was a waterfall of firsthand testimony, turns into recanted tales, faded memories, and retracted witness statements.
The Norfolk Police Department will not watch our youth fall victim to violent predators or remain silent when innocent minds are transformed into believing violence solves problems. In our efforts to enhance public safety, we’ve created bonds within our communities to engage open dialogue and enrich our police-community partnerships. Rest assured my officers will identify these violent social outliers and remove them from our communities. But we have to have the community’s assistance. Only in actionable partnership will public safety be enhanced to affect the change that’s needed to combat violent crime with long-term resolutions.
The Norfolk Police Department partners with anonymous tip lines, faith-based outreach, community recreation centers, open forums, mentorship programs to sponsor or support over two dozen community-based outreach initiatives. In addition to public safety, my officers are working hand-in-hand building lasting relationships in our neighborhoods. We can’t affect sustainable, lasting change without our communities standing up against violence as well.
I urge you to get involved in your child’s life. Recognize the signs of criminal behavior, or the cries for help, and take action before it’s too late. Call for community support when you need assistance. Contact the police to report suspicious behavior in your neighborhood. Anonymous tips are researched and followed up just the same as identifiable witnesses.
The bottom line is simple. The age of tolerance and silence has to end. As a community, we have to invest in our youth to create positive opportunities of hope for their future and the generation to come.
Norfolk Police Chief L.D. Boone