Hampton Roads leaders unite to curb violence

Published 6:23 pm Tuesday, January 9, 2024

The top leaders in Hampton Roads gathered on Friday, Jan. 5, to discuss ways to combat violence in the community. 

During the work session held at the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (PDC), mayors, city managers, and violence prevention organizations came together to brainstorm ways to curb violence in the Hampton Roads area. 

Chanell and Troy Ketchmore of Ketchmore Kids, Matika Sawyer of League of Advocates and Adrian Cook of Let Our Voices Empower each presented to the mayors and city managers on their efforts in violence prevention with Ketchmore Kids providing a positive influence on youth, League of Advocates helping kids avoid a life on the streets and Let Our Voices Empower helping children through taking them to school, advocating for them in court to provide visits to the detention centers. Chanell Ketchmore talked about the value and importance of their organization’s work.

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“When we’re out working in communities, what I share with my team members is, with all the losses that we have, we will never minimize or diminish them, and at the same time, we are going to lean into all the lives that we are able to save,” Ketchmore said. “In these same neighborhoods, there are a lot of young people, young adults, adults that gravitate toward us. They are receptive to us. In some neighborhoods, we’ve been able to help reduce crime by up to 20 percent. That’s from our local law enforcement and the Department of Criminal Justice sharing those statistics with us. … In some of the spaces we work in, you have behaviors and mindsets that have been ingrained for years, generational years.”

Ketchmore continued.

“It literally is a process of planting seeds of change, watering those seeds and then the real harvest is when we have a participant who makes up their mind that they want to do something different. So when we meet participants where they are, we have to be able to support that and follow that group,” she said.

Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck praised the organization leaders for their commitment and efforts in providing violence prevention programs.

“They are actually providing a valuable service and we need to try to understand how we can help them continue what they do … We know that the crime and violence crosses borders and so I think because of that, there’s a region as Mayors and City Managers, we need to find out some type of strategy beyond what’s happening here…,” Tuck said.

Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Cooper Alexander, Ph.D., thanked the organization leaders and said that they are teaching much needed “critical skills” to the youth while Portsmouth Mayor Shannon E. Glover expressed that fundamentals are missing in youth development. Suffolk Mayor Michael D. Duman talked about the importance of schools and workforce development, providing opportunities for youth while preventing violence as an early deterrent.

“I think we need to work regionally as governing bodies along with our respective schools and for PDC to work with the schools to kind of come up with programs that would be uniform across Hampton Roads in regards to workforce development and in that same light, we can work regionally with employers that are willing to participate in whatever workforce development programs we have,” Duman said. “There’s one thing that I’ve learned about kids and most of society, they will do what they are interested in and it’s hard to beat them into being interested in something. So if we can get into that, ‘What do you have an aptitude for? What would you like to do? What do you see yourself doing?’ Then we’re able to build on that starting in the schools, I think we can put a huge dent in this and then if it doesn’t work from there, then we can address it.”

Following the meeting, Duman provided his thoughts on how the work session and its discussions went. 

“I thought the meeting was productive as it will lead to further

collaboration between the Hampton Roads cities. United, we will be able to accomplish more than we could individually,” Duman said. “ … There was a consensus that workforce development was Paramount to reducing criminal activity as it would provide productive alternative options and opportunities. I am pleased that moving forward the committee plans on promoting additional interaction and collaboration with our schools. I look forward to our next meeting.”