PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — The recent spike in crime in the City of Petersburg has prompted residents and law enforcement to issue a call to action to put an end to the violence.

The Petersburg Police Department confirmed that ten shootings have occurred in the city since September 1.

But according to police, there is actually a 67% reduction in homicides compared to crime statistics this same time last year. And there has been a 24% decrease in all violent crimes since Sept. 1.

While this could be due, in part, to the coronavirus pandemic forcing people to spend more time in their homes, Ronnie Ransome, Jr., says the staggering drop highlights what change actually looks like.

Ransome is a former Virginia State University football player and is currently a mental health counselor who works with youth in the city. He has grown up in the area and is on course to graduate with his Master’s Degree in Counseling Education in December.

And he says that it is time for Petersburg residents to reclaim the narrative of their city.

“We need to change that narrative,” Ransome said. “You shouldn’t have to survive in Petersburg. You should get to thrive in Petersburg.”

“When you first think of Petersburg, the first thing you think of is crime. You think of violence. You think of low expectations and low standards. When in all reality there is a lot of great talent in the City of Petersburg. There’s a lot of great things in the City of Petersburg.”

Ransome said that the stigma of violence associated with the city needs to end because Petersburg stands for much more than that. He says the city is full of love, history, great food, kind people and promise.

As a mental health counselor, Ransome says that he learns about the children in the city and the life experiences some combat while growing up. And many face trauma at a very young age.

“I’m talking about domestic violence, physical abuse, verbal abuse, incarceration, drugs, even as much as parents arguing inside the household,” Ransome said. “We have to break that stigma within the African-American community and if you need help, seek help.”

He says that violence is often seen as a means for survival to some of the youth he works with.

“If you don’t feel safe in your environment, you act out. That’s what happens,” Ransome said. “A lot of these kids don’t feel safe. They feel like when they walk outside, they have to look over their shoulder, they have to look over their back just to make sure they can make it from point A to point B.”

A quarter of Petersburg’s ~31,000 residents were reported to live below the poverty line in 2019.

“They don’t have resources, they don’t have food, they don’t have adequate education,” Ransome added. “Often times, by making ends meet by any means necessary, often resorts into violent acts, violent crimes, people killing people.”

Ransome said that he wants the residents to come together and stop the senseless violence. And says that is the only way to take back control of the narrative and put an end to the stigma against the city he loves so much.

If you or someone you know is in need of counseling or mental health services, you can use Petersburg’s District 19 community service board or visit The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services to find a counselor in your area.