HOPEWELL, Va. (WRIC) — There were a total of nine homicides in the City of Hopewell last year. According to the city’s police department, it was the most violent year in over two decades.
In the wake of that violence, City leaders approved a portion of a group violence intervention effort known as “Operation Ceasefire.” The portion of the initiative that has been pushed forward is a proposal to introduce Real Life — a program already in use in Richmond.
Members of the community told stories of fear and violence at the Hopewell City Council meeting on Thursday, Jan. 5.
“I’ve had a long day. I woke up this morning to a bullet hole in my house,” one resident said. “I have a 10-year-old who is now scared.”
Last week, 8News reported on the shooting death of P’Aris Moore — an 8-year-old girl — in the Arlington neighborhood of the city.
“I hope every person in our city knows that every kid in our city deserves to ride their back and go home,” said Carrie Coyner of the Virginia House of Delegates.
According to Coyner, the goal for the City is no longer to just arrest criminals but also to offer them an opportunity to turn their lives around.
“We are going to keep you alive and safe and free. We are going to wrap every support you just heard around you for you to make that choice,” she said. “But if you choose not to make it, we are going to make sure there are consequences.”
Those who choose to enter the proposed program would be paired with a life coach and would have other tools at their disposal such as counseling, according to advocates.
According to City leaders, the approval of Real Life is the first step forward in the proposed Operation Ceasefire. A.J. Starke, Hopewell’s Chief of Police said he is excited about the potential of the program.
“I’m energized by our community saying enough is enough,” Starke said.