Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the University of Virginia police departments have joined a national initiative that provides resources, including grants, to drive down gun violence.
It comes amid a recent rise in gun violence in Charlottesville and the surrounding area.
“I am excited about the new partnership,” Charlottesville Police Chief Michael Kochis told The Daily Progress Thursday after it was announced the city, county and school had joined Project Safe Neighborhoods Communities, an initiative led by the Department of Justice. “We already work closely with UVa and Albemarle County. There is a lot of crossover so this was an easy decision to move forward with.”
UVa Police Chief Tim Longo, himself a former Charlottesville police chief, said much of the same.
“We are incredibly proud to be part of a partnership that not only seeks to reduce violence in our community, but fully embraces the importance of community engagement, thoughtful collaboration with stakeholders, and the irrefutable importance of preserving a safe and healthy community,” Longo said in a statement.
Albemarle Police Chief Sean Reeves said the county is already working to identify potential grants to apply for.
“The Albemarle County Police Department is committed to working with Project Safe Neighborhood partners to identify the most pressing issues impacting our community and develop comprehensive solutions to make this region a safer place for everyone,” Reeves said in a statement.
The announcement comes amid a recent rise in gun violence in the Charlottesville area. There have been 19 shootings in 2023, according to a tally by The Daily Progress.
In the first three months of the year there were already five homicide cases reported within Charlottesville city limits, the highest number since 2017.
Longo has previously said that gun violence in the area is the highest he’s ever seen it.
Overall, the violent crime rate in Charlottesville has increased by 30% over the past two years, according to data reported in the Virginia police database as of April 2022.
“This opens up our community to new grant opportunities to make our streets safer and to strengthen relationships,” Kochis said. “With time we are going to start applying for some of these grants, I just am not sure which ones quite yet.”
Project Safe Neighborhoods Communities has four elements: community engagement; prevention and intervention; focused and strategic enforcement; and accountability.
“Confronting gun violence in the vibrant communities of Charlottesville, Albemarle County, and the University of Virginia demands a collaborative approach that harnesses the strength of all federal, state, and local stakeholders,” Christopher Kavanaugh, attorney for the Western District of Virginia, said in a statement. “By forging a united front, we can strike at the root of this pressing issue, ensuring safer streets and fostering a resilient community where every individual can thrive, free from the shadows of violence.”