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Prince William County chief concerned over increasing aggravated assaults, violent crimes

Chief Peter Newsham said disputes involving guns have become a troubling trend in the county.

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — The recent shooting that left a 9-year-old girl critically injured in Woodbridge highlights the ongoing violent crimes in Prince William County. 

Investigators said four people, possibly juveniles, had a dispute with a man sitting in a nearby car in the 15300 block of Gatehouse Terrace on Tuesday night. 

At least one of the culprits missed and hit the young girl while she was playing with other kids in a neighbor's front yard.

"It's just heartbreaking," neighbor Dan Patterson told WUSA9. "These are really good girls."

Chief Peter Newsham said there have been "troubling shootings" in the past several weeks in the county. The police department just arrested 23-year-old Isaiah Gordon of Dumfries, the suspect wanted in a shooting that injured two people during a youth football game earlier this month. 

Like other shootings in the county, both recent incidents are a reflection of a concerning theme, per Newsham. 

"There's a lot of disputes occurring between folks that know each other," Newsham said. "What's making it particularly violent is the introduction of a firearm into that dispute and then a willingness to use that firearm. Whenever a bullet leaves the barrel of a gun you never where it's going to land."

There has been a slight uptick in violent crimes in the county, according to a newly released annual police report. It showed 56 more incidents last year than in 2020. 

The biggest jump is in the number of aggravated assault cases, a 22% increase over a five-year average. Attempted murder or assault to murder are counted as aggravated assaults.

"We always want to see crime going in a downward direction so when you compare year to year you see an increase it's unsettling," Newsham said. 

This comes as Governor Glenn Youngkin recently announced creating a new task force to combat violent crimes in the commonwealth. He wants to provide more resources to law enforcement, create alternative and after-school activities for kids and address any concerns from witnesses who may need to testify.

"Any assistance we can on violent crime we definitely are going to participate in that," Newsham said.

RELATED: 15-year-old arrested in double homicide at Woodbridge Station apartments

RELATED: 'It's not fair to kids' | 9-year-old girl shot in Woodbridge, police say

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