Richmond’s Summer of Blood

 

Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith announced 24 homicides occurred July 1 through September 3, a 60 percent increase compared with the same period in 2019. In Smith’s quarterly report violent crime overall was up four percent. Cases of arson were up by 17 percent, for a total of 21.

“After the civil unrest we still have experienced some arsons,” Smith said. Smith was hired at the beginning of July after downtown Richmond suffered violent protests.

The wave of violence in Richmond isn’t limited to riots. “We have seen some small arguments escalate into violent acts,” Smith said. “We’ve also seen some of the historical beefs between communities and neighborhoods.”

Smith said a lack of trust in police is making investigation more difficult. “When you make us the villain, some people start to believe that narrative,” Smith said. “When you start to investigate crimes, the number one resource is the community. The community knows before we know.”

“Gun violence in the city is a public health crisis,” mayoral candidate Alexsis Rodgers told The Virginia Star. “We need to focus on comprehensive solutions to address this issue. Our focus has to be on prevention, looking at the root causes for this level of violence, and creating economic opportunities for young people in the city. We need to engage social workers, faith leaders, community organizations and residents in communities directly impacted by violence and crime to create initiatives that increase public safety. This has to be a community-driven process.”

Mayor Levar Stoney forced out the previous Police Chief, William Smith, in mid June as riots spread through Richmond. “I have high expectations for the Richmond Police Department, our law enforcement. At a very minimum, I expect them to be willing to come around the table with the community to reform and reimagine public safety,” Stoney told ABC News in June.

Councilmember and candidate for mayor Kim Gray blames the crisis on Stoney’s mismanagement.

“The overall situation of lawlessness in our city is what I believe is contributing to our spike in crime,” Gray told The Virginia Star. “Our mayor has turned his back on the city.”

Mayor Stoney did not reply to a request for comment by press time.

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network.  Email tips to [email protected]

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