Crime spike in Petersburg prompts new police chief to issue video message pleading for public’s help

The Tri-Cities

PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — A spike in crime in Petersburg has the police department issuing a call to action.

The city’s new police chief, Travis Christian, posted a video message addressing the recent rash of gun violence and is pleading for the public’s help.

“As many of you are aware, our city has seen a disturbing uptick in violence,” Christian stated in the video. “Many have been injured, lives have been lost and some have expressed living in fear and these actions are unacceptable and won’t be tolerated in our city.”

Chief Christian posted the roughly four-minute video online hoping more information will pour-in regarding the city’s uptick in crime.

Over the last two weeks, Petersburg officers have responded to a drive-by triple shooting, a fatal double shooting, two separate shootings resulting in one death, assisted with an officer-involved shooting, and officers were shot at during a burglary this past weekend.

Condemning the violence, Chief Christian says illegal firearms are infiltrating the city’s streets and he and his officers are cracking down to seize them. He goes on to say that a majority of gun violence begins with an argument.

“Resolving conflict has been a problem here,” Christian told 8News. “We see that those who have altercations or conflict result to gun violence as their way of resolving the issue and that’s a major issue.”

In his plea to the public, Chief Christian is urging residents to come forward and speak their truth, sharing with 8News that their department needs help from the community they serve.

“Too many times, we respond to these acts of violence and are met by loved ones, neighbors, friends, who are present and witnesses to these crimes,” Christian stated. “When asked what happened, the response is ‘I didn’t see anything.’ Say something, Petersburg. We need your help.”

Christian, who just accepted the role of police chief, replaces Kenneth Miller. Chief Christian was officially introduced to the public at the department’s historic accreditation ceremony on September 29. Although he hasn’t been officially sworn-in, Christian told 8News on Tuesday that he has taken over all duties as chief. Despite his recent promotion, Christian is no stranger to the department, previously serving as Deputy Chief.

“I understand that walking into this position was going to be a challenge,” Christian said. “I expected this, but it’s my mission and my goal to make a better safer community.”

Chief Christian says the department will be cracking down on curfew checks against juveniles and adult offenders and working closely with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. Another mention in Christian’s video message was increasing community engagement throughout the city, reinforcing that community members and officers must work together to make the streets safer.

“Any amount of information can help prevent or solve a crime,” Christian said. “You just never know, but our presence and their voices are important.”

Many residents have expressed fear or hesitation in speaking to police about crime in Petersburg. When asked about this on Tuesday, Chief Christian told 8News that he is aware of the stigma of telling the truth and his department has resources to keep residents safe.

For the sake of transparency, Chief Christian provided his personal cell phone number at the end of the video message, saying he is ready to listen, no matter the time or day. Residents can also call the police department’s non-emergency number or CrimeSolvers to remain anonymous.

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