NORFOLK, Va. — Nofolk City Manager Chip Filer announced plans to address crime concerns after a shooting downtown killed two people and injured three others.
Filer said the plan is being put in place after residents and business owners voiced issues in the city, and it aims to curb disorderly conduct and violence in areas with entertainment establishments.
Part of the plan includes increased officers from Norfolk Police Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights in these entertainment areas.
On March 24, city officials also started unannounced visits to restaurants and entertainment venues that have Conditional Use Permits to check for city code violations and to have visible presence in the areas.
Starting March 31, city officials will begin unannounced visits to nightclubs and restaurants during night hours to check on possible city code violations as well, the city said in a press release. They plan do continue this for 90 days unless needed further.
Businesses licenses and taxes will also be checked in the next two weeks.
In addition, Filer is hoping the city council will approve the creation of a business compliance unit to help educate businesses and enforce the codes.
The city is also replacing all surveillance camera technology at city garages downtown.
"We are prepared to do everything necessary to maintain law and order downtown, whether it be 2 o'clock in the afternoon or 2 o'clock in the morning," Filer said.
The city said this plan is to ensure that businesses, operators and the City of Norfolk have shared responsibility to keep up a safe environment. Filer hopes the business owners and police can work out a better way to communicate if someone is getting kicked out of a bar so police are aware of potential problems.
"These immediate actions should provide a much needed boost to our visitors' sense of security and re-establish the commitment that the city has to maintaining Downtown Norfolk as a premiere entertainment location in the region," said Filer.
This plan comes after the shooting on March 19 that took the lives of 25-year-old Devon Harrisand 25-year-old Sierra Jenkins, who was a reporter at The Virginian-Pilot.
Following the shooting, police have already increased patrols in downtown during the weekends.
Members of the business community told News 3 they agree with adding patrols.
"It’s definitely going to help Downtown Norfolk and keep eyes and ears to the ground. If you can see it first-hand, that helps a ton, as well. There was a big police presence here last night. You could definitely tell the difference," Daryl Bresach, Baxter’s general manager, said.
Other city leaders have proposed ideas to also address crime. City council member Courtney Doyle suggested downtown bars should close at midnight instead of 2 a.m. and said restaurants should have their permits reviewed.
“I think we need to focus on our downtown; I know you're very focused on the community as a whole,” Doyle said during a meeting last week. “Right now, we have a big issue downtown, and we need to take downtown back. We don't have control of our downtown. I'm suggesting a few things, and it needs to be multi-pronged.”