HAMPTON, Va. - At a city council meeting Wednesday, the Hampton Police Division said there have been 176 violent crime incidents in the city this year.
Citing the latest annual crime report, Police Chief Terry Sult identified gang and youth violence as the driving force behind these offenses.
"Children brought up in an environment with poor education and challenging economic living conditions can tend to cause an individual to lean more towards that lifestyle," said Corporal Shaun Stoalnaker, gang and youth violence investigator with the department.
The department said there are five active gangs in Hampton and nine in Newport News.
Stoalnaker added they're noticing more girls are getting involved in gang activity, with 17 female-related incidents so far this year.
"We have members from sets out of Newport News, but living in the City of Hampton and whenever there are issues, something can happen in Newport News and they retaliate back in our city," he said.
The police department told city council members that they're working on beefing up patrols in areas where gang activity usually occurs, including Shell Road, LaSalle Avenue and Lincoln Park.
Sult also said they're working with the Commonwealth's Attorney to prosecute repeat juvenile offenders.
"It doesn't matter how tight the gun laws are or how restrictive they are," the chief of police said. "If there aren't any consequences after the arrest, it's a moot point."
Sult said Hampton is ranked the third safest city in Hampton Roads, right behind Suffolk, with regard to violent crimes with 2.9%.
The chief said Virginia Beach is ranked the safest city and Portsmouth as the least.