As Danville wraps up its deadliest year on record since 1953, city council members held a special work session Tuesday night to discuss the violence.
Police and other city officials presented a plan of nearly 30 short-term and long-term strategies to reduce violent crime.
According to Danville police chief Philip Broadfoot, it was just two years ago that Danville saw a record low of three homicides in 2014. But now, the city has seen a record high of 14 homicides in 2016.
“What we’ve got to do as citizens of Danville – we’ve got to step up to the plate,” said Felicia Culley, who attended the meeting.
Culley said someone recently shot at her friend’s home. She said she believes bringing an end to violent crime needs to include community involvement like opening community outreach centers.
Chief Broadfoot agrees the solution goes beyond just the police department.
“Just like the mayor said, the police can’t make the crime rate go up; the police can’t make the crime rate go down,” he said. “It’s a community effort.”
Chief Broadfoot said he believes a change from record-low to record-high homicide rates so quickly involves a combination of several conditions, including offenders becoming younger, increased gang affiliation, activity on social media and increased access to illegal and stolen firearms.
“When you put all of those together, that’s this perfect storm that we’re involved in right now,” Broadfoot said. “And it’s a very, very dangerous combination.”
Broadfoot and city manager Ken Larking presented a variety of strategies to combat the crime. They said they are hoping to create a gang task force within the community, in addition to the task force inside the police department.
They said they would also like to continue community policing, adding new features like incentives for police officers to live in certain neighborhoods.
Broadfoot said he also hopes city council will approve more financing for the police department’s informant fund as well as funding for some new positions in the police department and additional patrol vehicles.
“We’ve had a lot of breakdowns this past summer because of the heat issues – then that really straps us,” Broadfoot said. “We’ve been out here at times when we don’t have a vehicle available for an officer who we want to task with some type of police activity.”
Outside the police department, city leaders want to create a youth services task force to intervene with those who may commit crimes at a younger age, Larking said. They also want to strengthen efforts in neighborhood revitalization and workforce development, he added.
“We have to take a holistic approach,” Culley said. “We need the police department, we need social services, we need school, we need judges, we need the community.”
With input from city council, the police chief and city manager will now work on a final version of the plan. As for approval for city funding for some parts of the plan, city council will make those decisions in next year’s budget, Broadfoot said.