Asbell addresses gun violence

Published 5:25 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2023

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AHOSKIE – As the number and frequency of gun-related crimes increase here, Ahoskie Police Chief Jimmy Asbell said his department is taking measures to combat this type of violence.

Asbell shared a letter with this newspaper that he wrote last week to the Town of Ahoskie citizens where he outlined a plan of action as well as asking local residents to help the police department by reporting crime or suspicious activity in their neighborhoods.

That letter is as follows:

“On behalf of Ahoskie Police Department, we share a sense of urgency regarding the recent gun violence on our streets. Words cannot adequately describe the immeasurable toll gun violence has on families and our community.

“Violent crimes involving guns have continued to increase in the past 12 months. During the course of ongoing arrests and investigations of these violent crimes, the Ahoskie Police Department has seized over 55 guns in 2022 alone. As we continue to investigate these crimes, the Ahoskie Police Department will remain proactive in its approach holding violent offenders accountable.

“As Chief of Police, it is my responsibility to work in partnership with the community to galvanize every possible resource to prevent, intervene, investigate, and suppress gun violence.

“Shootings create trauma for the people directly involved and for everyone in surrounding neighborhoods and communities. The sounds of gunfire, the possibility that kids or loved ones may be unintended victims, and the inability to feel safe can cause long-term harm. The risk of and reality of that harm calls not only law enforcement officials – but the entire community to action. The surge in gun incidents and deaths demands that we, as a community, respond immediately and that we remain united in our effort to end current violence and prevent future violence.

“As Chief of Police, I understand that gun, gang, and violent crime issues are complex and approaches from any organizations to combat these issues need to include prevention, deterrence, intervention, and accountability. The Ahoskie Police Department has always worked diligently to address gun violence in our town but with the increase of gun violence with youthful offenders between the ages of 14 and 25 and the recent gun violence in public areas, the Ahoskie Police Department is taking immediate steps to address this increase in gun violence.

“Our investigations indicate that the shootings and gun violence are not random acts but intentional shootings by members of one group against members of another group and not just random shootings in the community. Because we are dedicated to transparency, we want to keep the community informed as much as possible within the confines of the law as to what steps are being taken to combat this gun violence. By sharing this information with our citizens, we hope to build trust with community members so that everyone knows we are working tirelessly to ensure the safety of our community.

“The Ahoskie Police Department is fully staffed at this time, and we have implemented immediate action steps, among other strategies, to combat this violent crime surge. We have adjusted the patrol shift schedules so that there are more officers working during the times when there are high volume calls for service. The Ahoskie Police Department has also assigned specialized detectives solely to work these violent crimes involving gun violence, gang violence, and young offenders.

“The Ahoskie Police Department is continuing to place great emphasis on Community Policing and increased foot patrols and presence throughout the town. This is a proven strategy that prevents gun and gang activity while restoring trust amongst the citizens we serve.

“Some offenders who commit crime within the town limits of Ahoskie do not live in Ahoskie and those committing this violence do not respect county or town lines; therefore, the Ahoskie Police Department has always and will continue to partner with the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office and the Murfreesboro Police Department and our surrounding law enforcement agencies who are experiencing the same increase in gun violence and death to combine our resources to more effectively combat these violent crimes. All local law enforcement agencies are working together and sharing detailed information about shootings and leveraging their collective resources more effectively as a result. Just as important, the information shared between the law enforcement departments helps reduce the risk of retaliation and is the foundation for successful prevention and intervention. The Ahoskie Police Department is collaborating with state and federal officials to ensure every law enforcement agency is working together – across city, county, and state lines – to investigate, arrest and hold people who engage in gun violence accountable.

“I want to be clear. I see what others see; too many people being shot and killed in our community. The threat of gun violence in Ahoskie, Hertford County, and surrounding counties is real, pervasive, and unsettling and I see it every day. The Ahoskie Police Department staff are deeply impacted by the loss of life and the trauma plaguing our community. We all share in this sense of urgency.

“As the Ahoskie Police Department proactively approaches this rise in crime, as Chief of Police, I want to point out that combating gun violence, violent crime, and gang violence and retaliation requires the realization that the answer does not lie solely with the local law enforcement departments. Law enforcement and citizens must work together to curb the tide. Citizens must be ready and willing to report any suspicious activity to the Ahoskie Police Department quickly. Help and information is crucial in holding these offenders accountable for this unlawful and violent conduct.

“When community members witness a crime or report suspicious activity, seconds and minutes matter as to whether someone can be arrested while the crime is in progress or whether the officers react after the offender has left the scene of a crime. When community members report crimes, detailed descriptions of people and/or vehicles involved in the crime aid in the apprehension of violent offenders. As we continue to try to hold these violent offenders accountable, we need the citizens to step up, step forward and join the effort to discourage the gangs, guns, and drugs that threaten to destroy our youth and the very foundation of our town and nation.

“Thank you and please know that the Ahoskie Police Department is always working to keep our community safe.”

Chief Jimmy Asbell

Ahoskie Police Department