PETERSBURG, Va. -- Police in Petersburg say that they've seen an increase in violence in the city over the last few months and some experts believe pandemic stress could be to blame.
"People are in a lot of pain and they don't know what to do and how to handle the things that they are dealing with," Pastor Belinda Baugh with New Divine Worship Center said.
The recent uptick in violent crimes in Petersburg is similar to what is being seen across the United States.
"There is a concern about the uptick in violence that's occurring here in the city," Petersburg Police Deputy Chief Emanuel Chambliss said.
The National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice reports a study on crime in 34 major cities across the United States. The study found that aggravated and gun assault rates were also higher in the first quarter of 2021 than in the same period of 2020.
"People have been pent up in houses for a period of time, they're just starting to get out and about," Chambliss said.
However, he and others believe that the pandemic cannot be blamed for all crimes.
"It still goes back to a lot of people not knowing how to settle their differences without resorting to gun violence," Chambliss said.
"Oh, I don't think it's all pandemic stress. This right here is not new to us and it's not new to some of the other cities and communities going on," Baugh said.
Baugh, a longtime activist who promotes non-violence, is concerned about who is dying in the recent shootings.
"When you start looking at the death rate in Petersburg, our children, these are babies, that are in their 20's and under," Baugh said.
She believes that the key to slow the violence is to focus on the younger generations.
"I do know as a city and as a community, we got to do better with our youth. We need something for them to do, positive and productive, daily," Baugh said.
Police say that in order to slow the violence, they need more public support. Despite added support, police are still facing an age-old problem.
"People don't want to talk, that no snitching thing, still applies," Chambliss said.
Baugh is planning a Stop the Violence regional community day on July 10 in an effort to engage the public to take a stand and become the eyes and ears of their community.