Violent crime has become an “absolute nightmare” for many communities throughout the commonwealth, Gov. Glenn Youngkin said Monday.
Youngkin, speaking at a press conference in Norfolk, announced a new initiative intended to help.
“We have a serious problem with staffing in our law enforcement agencies,” he said. “We must get more badges on the street.”
The governor said his plan — dubbed Operation Bold Blue Line — will launch a $30 million nationwide recruitment campaign intended to bring out-of-state police officers to Virginia. He said many officers from states that “do not support law enforcement” should want to come to the commonwealth.
The initiative further directs Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera to work with the community college system to develop programs for high school students who want to explore careers in law enforcement, Youngkin said.
“I am also asking (Guidera) to work with all Virginia institutions of higher education to create a badge and degree program that helps law enforcement recruits that go on to serve their community to get a degree at little or no cost to them,” he said.
Youngkin said the public safety initiative will “accelerate the pace” of the already appropriated $75 million for training and equipment for police.
Attorney General Jason Miyares, who also spoke at the event, said his office will be working with legislators to fund the Victim Witness Protection Program.
He said it will help protect those who testify in court from retaliation. The program would help witnesses with lodging or transportation, or provide funds for those who wish to relocate.
“One of the hardest things to do as a prosecutor is to convince a victim to go on the witness stand and relive the single worst moment of their lives and testify,” Miyares said. “Too many victims feel that they are at risk. Without victims willing to testify, prosecutors and law enforcement cannot do their jobs.”
In a press release, Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi said he was pleased to learn about the push to fund the Victim Witness Protection Program. Fatehi said he and other “progressive prosecutors” had championed the program for more than a year.
“It has the promise to make a real difference in the effective prosecution of violent crime cases,” he wrote.
Fatehi noted that Del. Don Scott, a Portsmouth Democrat, had pushed to fund the program during the legislative session earlier this year.
Many communities in Hampton Roads are struggling with violent crime or law enforcement staffing issues.
The Norfolk police department, for example, is already down 255 officers and expects to lose another 77 officers by the year’s end.
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