Charlottesville Council discusses gun violence; many governance details in written report

The Charlottesville City Council had a full meeting on Monday, and one I’m finally able to get to after taking a couple of days off from a deadline. We start the coverage with the consent agenda, which included an extension of the contract for the Robert Bobb Group for the services of Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers. According to a staff report, that will give enough time for a new police chief to be hired as well as for Council to adopt a strategic plan. Then there’s also the matter of the budget. 

No one spoke during the opportunity to comment about the contract extension. 

Next, there was a review of the written city manager report followed by comments about recent shootings in the area. Let’s go through the report first: (read the report

  • Rogers said a new executive director for the Police Civilian Oversight Board will be hired as soon as possible. The Board’s operating procedures will be reviewed by Council at their meeting on December 5. 
  • New procurement rules adopted by Council in October will make it possible to use private dollars to help pay for energy savings projects in large capital projects. (story on InfoCville)
  • New employee Ben Chambers is now the transportation planner for the Department of Neighborhood Development Services. The position is intended to help address a backlog of stalled projects. Council was briefed on a “reboot” for transportation planning this past May. (story on InfoCville)
  • More people are seeking out the services of the Office of Human Rights with 2022 volumes higher than all of 2021. We’ll hear more about a proposal to hire two more staff for the office in a future installment of the program. 
  • The average review time for a building permit is now below is now down below 40 days according to a chart provided in the report. That’s because the city sought help from the University of Virginia with a backlog and hiring two people to serve as both a new building code official and a support services manager. The new goal is to bring reviews down to 14 days, which the report states will take hiring more personnel. 

In City Manager Rogers addressed the recent shootings on the Downtown Mall. 

“A week or so ago there was a violent incident on the mall at one of our establishments that resulted in the death of someone and two bystanders being hit by stray bullets,” Rogers said. 

Rogers convened a meeting with Friends of Downtown Cville to discuss the incident and steps to improve security.  

“When there is violence in the community in a concentrated period, naturally people are going to be upset and people are going to fear being in the location where those things are occurring,” Rogers said. “By and large when you consider the statistics in our community, it’s still safe.”  

Interim Police Chief Latroy Durrette offered some statistics about responses to calls for services related to gunfire. (view the data)

There were 185 such calls in 2017 and 181 calls in 2018. 

“A slight decrease in 2019 with 172,” Durrette said. “In 2020, we started to see an increase of 298 and a greater increase in 2021 with 322.

As of October 23, there have been 211 calls for service for shots fired. 

Durrette said shots fired incidents are not common on the mall and he showed maps showing where they are focused. For this year, that’s the Tenth and Page neighborhood as well as the Orangedale-Prospect area according to one of the images. 

He said he has increased patrols on the Downtown Mall. 

A heat map showing concentrations of where the shots fired calls have come from this year (Credit: Charlottesville Police Department) 

City Councilor Brian Pinkston said he was more concerned about reducing gun use in the parts where it is concentrated. 

“Whenever I talk to folks, people remind me that this is complicated, the causes and how we try to effect change is complicated too because there are unintended consequences,” Pinkston said. 

Vice Mayor Juandiego Wade was at that Friends of the Downtown Cville event which was attended by a wide variety of stakeholders.

“People came together from all sides of the community to talk about a very serious issue and I think we had some really good discussions,” Wade said. “Some of those discussions included de-escalation. I think that there was some understanding that when police arrive at these scenes, a lot is going and they want to preserve the scene. Part of it is that we wanted to talk about de-escalation,”

Rogers said the city has been speaking with law enforcement at the University of Virginia about sharing information and resources. 

“We’ll be following up on that and I think that there’s opportunity for the city, the county, and the University law enforcement to join forces and approach this as a truly regional issue,” Rogers said. 

During matters from the public, several people addressed the issue including Emily Morrison of the Front Porch, a music training entity with space on 3rd Street SE.

“My staff would  benefit from de-escalation trainings in the event of a conflict near our building so that we can know what to do in the event of an emergency,” Morrison said. 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the November 11, 2022 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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