Newport News Police Chief addresses community concerns

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Police Chief Richard Myersheld a press briefing on Thursday morning to address community policing concerns and provide an update on the Violent Crime Reduction Task Force.

"Our hope is to afford a better summary on crime and its impact, and once again encourage the public to assist us in diminishing crime in our community," a press release reads.

The department created a task force in the fall to address violent crime that was happening in five hot spots. Experienced officers patrolled areas and monitored repeat offenders.

Myers says the task force helped get violent criminals off the street. He wouldn't go into specifics on their tactics, but says there were no complaints about anything heavy-handed. "It's been described to me by task force members as the element of shock and awe," Myers said of the officers' tactics.

He stressed that Newport News is as safe as other cities. "If you come to Newport News to shop, to go to the movies, if you live here, you are at no greater risk for violence than any other city around the country," he said, noting that most of the crime victims are gang members or people who put themselves at risk.

The city saw 31 homicides in 2016 and more than 120 shootings. Chief Myers says some of the cases remain unsolved because community members and even victims aren't being cooperative with police.

Anita Gonzalez lost her son Jermell in May. He was killed in the Denbigh area. She has been out in the community with police, asking for people to come forward with information about crimes. "I think more people need to be involved in the community," she said. "It's not just about my son or somebody else's child, but it's about their community."

Myers plans to hold bi-monthly briefings with the media because he says daily news reports don't always provide context or full details on arrests or progress made on solving crimes.