Skip navigation

Emergency call towers pilot program is a 'win' for St. Paul's area, nonprofit organizers say

Angelique Arintok/13News Now Staff

NORFOLK, Va. — Emergency call towers, which are typically seen at locations like college campuses, are coming to a Norfolk neighborhood plagued with violent crime.

Organizers and residents 13News Now spoke with hope the addition of police signal boxes boost a feeling of security, while also put resources in the right place.

Monét Johnson, an organizer with New Virginia Majority, said this decision has been months in the making. The nonprofit started petitioning around late September or early October. 

"This took a while. It's not a one-stop fix, but it's something that shows the community they at least care what's happening to them," said Johnson. "I'm actually pretty joyous this is happening even though it's just the first one of many."

PREVIOUS STORY | A look at New Virginia Majority's call tower petition for Norfolk, as officers arrest 11-year-old in Young Terrace-area shooting

Johnson said commissioners of the board for Norfolk Redevelopment Housing Authority approved the initiation of a pilot program for the call towers.

"They said the first one will go up within 45 to 60 days. The first one is going in Calvert Square," said Johnson. 

Sasha Simmons, a mother of three, lives in Calvert Square.

"I'm hoping that it will help. I feel like it's worth a try, because with it getting hotter outside, crime seems to escalate during the summer months," said Simmons. "Just hoping that the call towers being present can make the residents feel more secure. I know it will kind of make me feel more secure."

Furthermore, advocates said the new additions can improve lighting and alleviate concerns surrounding over-policing.

"Allow residents, especially if they don't have access to a phone or perhaps their child is playing outside, to have access if they need police, to press the emergency call button and then that button will call the police — as opposed to being the person seen calling the police, which is not always the thing people want," Johnson added. 

After the installation of the first tower, Johnson said the pilot will ideally expand in Calvert Square and Young Terrace. She hopes for as many towers as is possible, given the housing authority's budget. 

New Virginia Majority is also working with local children in St. Paul's.

Since November, volunteers have waited at bus stops after school to escort students home, while promoting safety.

The last day of classes is Friday, but organizers are already planning a back-to-school event for August.

Moreover, organizers said they are advocating for a grocery store in the St. Paul's area. It is considered a food desert, especially after the community lost its Family Dollar to a fire in September.

Continue Reading

Read More