By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
Hampton Roads cities, like others across the nation, have seen a steady increase in gun violence since 2018, according to Norfolk’s Urban Renewal Center (URC).
On September 15, the Center launched an innovative system to collect data that will help confront the problem locally.
Through an interactive dashboard it will oversee, URC will be able to provide an in-depth analysis of where shootings are taking place and the broader socio-economic factors driving them in the area.
This dashboard will contain interactive maps that visualize gun violence at the city and neighborhood levels.
Each map reflects intersections of gun violence with poverty, youth violence, evictions, affordable housing, and historically redlined neighborhoods.
“Amid all this chaos, we believe there is hope. Hope begins with the close examination of how violence aligns with other distress in the community,” says Dr. Antipas L Harris, president of the URC. “We have longstanding issues of poverty, affordable housing, food deserts, lack of transportation, and more in our city. The violence is a concern for everyone, and it is going to take all of us to recognize how these issues align and how we must work together for a solution.”
Dr. Harris said the record of the incidents of gun violence will be harvested from the National Gun Violence Archives website, which tracks them regularly.
“This dashboard doesn’t just ask where — it asks why,” says Alex Fella, research director at the URC.
“It takes a long view approach to go beneath the surface of gun violence in our city.”
Harris said the URC Gun Violence dashboard will be a unique tool in combating the deadly trend in gun violence and will be updated quarterly.
Harris said the URC’s goal is that law enforcement, social service, and anti-gun violence advocates and activist and groups, faith communities, and other stakeholders seeking to end gun violence will use it.
He said these stakeholders should use the data as a resource to devise their plans and strategies to fight and end gun violence.
Harris said he dashboard will show where the acts of gun violence occur. Also, an ongoing collection of social, economic, and even infrastructural conditions of the areas most affected will be gathered and placed on it.
For instance, Harris said that “redlining” which involves steering Blacks seeking to rent or buy a home into under-resourced and poor neighborhoods is illegal.
“But we can still see the effects of it today,” he said. “In the city of Norfolk, we see a lack of commercial development, poor lighting, sidewalks, and dilapidated housing in the most impoverished urban areas of the city. We see most of the violence occurring in these areas.”
He said the information on age range, employment, and educational data will be collected from those who commit the violence incidents, including if they are repeat offenders, education, and other information.
Harris said in the long run interviews of the residents living in these communities will be conducted to ascertain their views on the issue and how it has impacted their lives.
Funding to support the project is coming from private donations and not government sources, he said.
The URC wants to make the information and data directly accessible to activists, civic, city and faith leaders, and even regular citizens.
To access the dashboard go to (https://theurcnorfolk.com/gun-violence-norfolk-dashboard)
It is best viewed on a laptop or desktop, but there is a mobile version available.