Police working to dial down violence in city as shootings have increased
Published 6:59 pm Tuesday, August 30, 2022
The number of shootings in Suffolk is up compared with previous years, but Police Chief Al Chandler said they need to be put into context, even as they work on making arrests and solving cases.
In 2022, 10 people have been killed and 19 more injured in shootings in the city, though police do not suspect foul play in an Aug. 22 incident.
“We’ve always had gun violence as long as I’ve been here,” Chandler said. “We are seeing it at a higher than normal level, definitely, but I guess I try to be careful not to sensationalize it because the more people hear about it, the more people look to hear about it. It’s the topic of the day.”
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On Tuesday, Suffolk Police arrested John Dontrel Harris, 31, on multiple charges, including second-degree murder in connection to a shooting Sunday in the 1000 block of Nansemond Parkway that left one person dead. Harris is being held at Western Tidewater Regional Jail.
But with three shootings in the past nine days, all resulting in deaths, Chandler said it’s understandable that residents are concerned.
“The numbers are higher, but it’s not earth-shattering,” Chandler said. “But, of course, any life that is lost is a tragedy.”
He said there are no general takeaways or trends in the shootings that have taken place across the city, though in an interview earlier this year, Chandler said there had been an exponential increase in the magnitude of the shootings in the city.
“What we’re finding is, it’s all over,” Chandler said. “We have been having different locations, different areas. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a gang-infested area. We’ve had shootings and shootouts in uncommon places because there are more people who are carrying guns and who can’t seem to find better ways to work through their differences.”
He noted that many people are not responsible gun owners who have access to firearms, and when two people get into a confrontation in which a firearm is available, “that opportunity is there with someone who may not have the best ability to work out their differences through means other than violence.”
Chandler also believes violence, and the conversation about it, perpetuates it, even the mention of violence in stories that would otherwise have nothing to do with it. While it is important to focus on violent crimes and solving them, he said the department has to focus on other crimes, and also highlight good things happening in the city.
“I think just by us changing the conversation, I think, oftentimes helps,” Chandler said. “We are inundated with conversations of violence, movies of violence, videos of violence, songs of violence, all types of things where you use violence being a repeated part of the conversation.”
He also said that with much of the city, and country, in a lockdown resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years, the perception of crime, and shootings, in particular, is that of a dramatic increase since people have returned to going out, gathering together and clubs and other businesses were either not operating or had reduced operations.
“That took away a lot of the opportunity for confrontations to occur,” Chandler said. “So when you look at the numbers, you have to look at it with that in mind, as well. There are a good number of things that have to be taken into consideration.”
Looking at raw numbers is important, he said, but so too are looking at contributing factors such as COVID-19. And besides the department itself, Chandler is using gunshot detection and portable cameras in hotspots, among other things, to help its efforts. He said people need to work harder at conflict resolution so they are not tempted to use guns in trying to solve issues, and that the temperature of conversations in person and on social media needs to be cooled.
He said the department’s work is challenging, and can take longer than people like because not only are officers trying to make an arrest, but they are also trying to prepare for trial and making sure the case is airtight against a suspect.
“Now that everything has opened back up, it seems so much worse than it was because often times we’re comparing it to what happened last year, or what happened the year before last,” Chandler said. “And in those two years, especially over half the year, the entire city was shut down. That makes a big difference.
“That doesn’t take away the fact that we have a lot of work to do and we continue to make strides at … ridding our cities of violence. But as long as you have people, I believe you will have people who utilize violence to impose their will, and that’s the need for a law enforcement agency, or laws, that govern that behavior, and it’s our responsibility to bring those people to justice.”
2022 shootings in Suffolk
Aug. 28 – 1 killed in shooting in 1000 block of Nansemond Pkwy.
Aug. 22 – 1 killed, no foul play suspected, in shooting in 800 block of West Washington St.
Aug. 20 – 1 killed in shooting in 400 block of Wilson St.
July 17 – 1 injured in shooting in 200 block of North Broad St.
July 9 – Shooting damages vehicles, buildings in 100 block of North Saratoga St.
July 1 – 1 killed in shooting in the 600 block of First Ave.
June 24 – 2 injured, multiple vehicles damaged in shooting in 6400 block of Hampton Roads Pkwy.
June 20 – 1 killed in shooting in 600 block of Matthews Court.
June 7 – 1 injured, 2 homes damaged in shooting in 100 block of Church Street
May 30 – 1 killed in shooting in 400 block of Hunter St.
May 27 – 1 injured in shooting in the parking lot of QVC Distribution Center off U.S. Route 460
May 20 – 1 injured in shooting in 600 block of East Washington St.
May 19 – 2 unoccupied vehicles struck by bullets, no injuries, 1000 block Centerbrooke Lane.
May 16 – 1 injured in shooting in 400 block of Hunter Street.
May 15 – 1 killed in shooting in 100 block of Nancy Drive.
May 12 – 1 killed in shooting in 100 block of Forest Oak Lane at Suffolk Station Apartments off Carolina Road.
May 9 – 1 injured in shooting in 200 block of Jackson Street, two residences struck by bullets.
May 4 – 1 killed, 1 injured (alleged shooter) in shooting at Hoffler Apartments in 2200 block of East Washington Street. 1 arrested.
May 2 – Shooting into an occupied home in the 200 block of North Lloyd Street.
April 26 – 1 juvenile injured, several apartments and vehicles struck by bullets at Hoffler Apartments.
April 12 – 1 boy injured by accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound in 600 block of Kinsey Lane.
April 10 – Man at Harbour View Medical Center emergency room with gunshot wound to arm.
April 8 – Occupied residence struck by bullets in 6000 block of Bradford Drive.
April 1 – Shooting in the 200 block of Pine Street, vehicle hit by bullets, no reports of injuries.
April 1 – Shooting downtown in the 400 block of Wilson Street home with bullet holes, no reports of injuries.
March 29 – 1 injured in shooting in the 6200 block of College Drive in North Suffolk.
March 27 – 1 killed, 1 injured in shooting in the 6300 block of Townsend Place and 6500 block of Hampton Roads Parkway area of North Suffolk, vehicle damage from bullets.
March 19 – 2 injured in 900 block of Brook Avenue.
Feb. 17 – Shooting into an occupied home in the 2000 block of Freeney Avenue, no reported injuries.
Feb. 6 – 2 injured in shooting in 100 block of Dill Road.
Feb. 3 – Shooting connected to robbery at EZ Food Mart and Deli, 1200 block of White Marsh Road, suspects and clerk exchange gunfire with no reported injuries.
Jan. 12 – 1 injured in shooting, carjacking incident in 6100 block of Brookwood Drive.
Jan. 10 – Shooting of occupied vehicle, 2 occupied homes in 300 block of South Division Street, no injuries.
Jan. 9 – Shooting into an occupied residence in the 100 block of South Division Street, no injuries.
Total: 10 killed, 19 injured in 2022. The city had 6 homicides in 2021 and 6 in 2020. Homicides or deaths resulting from a shooting are highlighted in bold.
Source: Suffolk Police via information provided in news releases.