City police chief says don’t align Petersburg with 252 other localities due to ‘unique challenges’ facing each

PETERSBURG – Time magazine’s latest issue hit shelves this week following two mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas left at least 31 dead between the two. Time’s front cover is a conglomeration of names, seemingly scratched into the black background. Each of those cities is a name associated with gun violence this year.

Petersburg is listed in the top left-hand corner.

If read left-to-right like typical words on a page, “Petersburg, VA” is the first of 253 cities mentioned, alongside Washington D.C., Chicago, Baltimore, and Los Angeles.

Each of the cities written on Time experienced a mass shooting, using data from the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit organization that compiles statistics.

Time’s cover is a commentary on the normality of terror in the United States, using the word “ENOUGH” large in the center of the page.

“Determining the cover is always a team discussion, and in the course of it, some in our newsroom urged that we not use that word,” wrote Time’s editor-in-chief and CEO Edward Felsenthal, in an article explaining the cover. “How to determine what exactly is enough?”

The cover references numerous prior shootings in Sandy Hook, Conn.; Pittsburgh; Charleston, S.C. and Parkland, Fla.

“This list, tallied by the Gun Violence Archive, of incidents in which at least four people other than the shooter were injured or killed is a reminder that the toll of gun violence is even greater than the public attacks we typically think of as mass shootings,” Felsenthal wrote.

Petersburg’s place in the archive came from a shooting on Feb. 9, in which no one was killed. Three people were severely injured and one person faced minor injuries for a shooting at 109 Perry St.

Petersburg had the highest homicide rate in Virginia according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s report for 2017, the most recent published report. The city was fourth highest in 2016.

“We’re not Baltimore, nor are we Chicago, those cities have nothing in common with us, they’re large metropolises. Cities have their own unique challenges,” said Kenneth Miller, public safety director and chief of police for Petersburg. “Petersburg does, it has it’s own unique challenges, and we’ve been working on keeping people safe since I’ve been here.”

Just three weeks ago, Petersburg held its second annual “Stop the Violence, Stop the Silence” event to protest gun violence, after 300 people showed up the first year. Law enforcement, and the community came together for the greater goal of peace and safety.

“That was a partnership between public safety and the community, with the community taking ownership, with the community getting involved,” Miller said. “We’re talking about violence that’s been going on for years. It doesn’t end or mask it, but what it does, you start seeing fragments of decline. You start seeing more people getting involved. And people came out that Saturday, and the public said they’re sick of violence, the public said no more, the public said, it’s had enough. That’s where it starts at.”

Miller has been at the helm of public safety for the past two years. Last year, Petersburg Police pulled nearly 300 guns off the street and are on track for a similar number in 2019.

Miller said he sees things moving in the right direction, though the city is yet to “score a touchdown.”

“We have people coming out and talking to us now. All of the crimes we solve, you wouldn’t believe how much community support. People are actually calling in saying we’ve had enough, and we know who did it,” Miller said.

He continued to say that this building of trust with the community, called “community policing,” is the most important piece for Petersburg as a locality.

“Trust comes from respect, and respect builds friendships,” Miller said. “We’re not looking for friends, we are friends. It’s hard to hurt your friends.”

By Sean Jones, Staff Writer
The Progress-Index
Sean Jones can be reached at sjones@progress-index.com or 804-722-5172.