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Cville's top cop meets with community scarred by gun violence

Charlottesville Police Chief Michael Kochis spent two hours at a local church, talking with neighbors about gun violence.

It was standing room only as Chief Michael Kochis prepared to hear from a community with plenty of complaints about police. He began by telling them that three people had been shot dead in the last six weeks, pledging to figure out where young men are getting weapons.

"I’ve assigned a detective to the Safe Streets task force … coming from – tracing guns, because I have that same question. Where are these kids getting these guns?" he explained.

Kochis said the city was short on officers, so he would also emphasize hiring and retention, but he warned it would take about a year to vet and train new cops. Francine Chambers, who had lost a nephew to gun violence, didn’t want to wait – demanding the police force do more now to get guns and criminals off the streets.

"We can't eat — sleepless nights, my mind is like a motor. These killers are still out here. It isn't right. You get those guns off the streets, because I'm going to tell you something. A whole lot of mommas are going to be crying."

And many, like Wes Bellamy, Sharon Jones and Mr. Alexan called for the community to take greater responsibility for its problems.

“Are we willing to mentor the young man who we think may be a little scary, or may wear their pants below their butt or have different kind of hair? Are we willing engage that person to truly form a community. I'm not saying I'm a police empathizer, but they have a role, and we have a role."

“I am a single mother of two black males. I know what comes into my house. I check the bags. I check the pockets. I check under the mattress. I check the drawers. No guns are coming in my house. No drugs are coming into my house. Put the responsibility back on the parents!"

"Don’t be pointing fingers only at the police! What are you willing to do? You’re either WBC or CIP. WBC is whining, bitching and complaining. CIP is creating, innovating and producing.”

Kochis said officers were already being sent into so-called hot spot neighborhoods where shootings had occurred, but he also pledged to treat residents with fairness and respect.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief