RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The City of Richmond has seen its highest number of homicides in 15 years.
Richmond crime statistics last updated on Sunday, Nov. 21, show 71 homicides since the start of 2021.
On Monday, Nov. 22, one other person was shot dead in an apartment building on East Marshall Street, bringing the total number of homicides to 72.
“If you can’t feel safe going to OMG Convenience Store, if you can’t feel safe walking to your school, if you can’t feel safe driving down the street, then our city has a bigger problem than we know,” Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin said. “This is not just a name, this is not just a body; this is a person who’s been taken from the community in a horrible manner and for whom justice needs to be sought.”
Out of those 72 homicides, 75% were shooting deaths, according to police data.
In 2020, there were 59 homicides reported within the same window of time, during the initial year of the pandemic.
Homicides as a whole have risen in the city, but the number of those committed using firearms has remained stagnant. As of Sunday, the Richmond Police Department (RPD) had reported 53 deadly shootings in the city, and last year at this time there had been 54.
From January 1, 2021, to June 20, 2021, there were 27 homicides. Since June 20, there have been 45 more homicides in the city.
According to both McEachin and Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith, many of the homicides this year have involved children, either as perpetrators or victims.
“What’s most painful is the number of juveniles who are both the offenders and the victims, and that’s something that I think can be attributed to COVID, to the fact that they are not in school, to the fact that their lives were upended as juveniles,” McEachin said. “It just escalates until you have teenagers shooting other teenagers or shooting adults to make a point, to be big, to get a reputation, and it’s just horrific.”
At a vigil last week, honoring the lives of two children lost to gun violence in the East End, Smith told 8News that those juveniles are who the community needs to reach in order to put an end to these tragedies.
“The ones that this is affecting are young people,” he said. “They’re the ones committing these acts, and they’re the ones being affected by the acts, and that’s who we need to engage.”
The most recent citywide crime report, showing data from Jan. 1 to Nov. 21, 2021, showed more than homicide data.
Rape cases in Richmond are 37% lower this year. Up to this point in 2020, there had been 49 rapes and there have been 31 up to this point.
Robberies of businesses, including those involving firearms have increased from 47 to 65. However, individual robberies which are more frequent decreased from 256 to 230.
Burglaries, larcenies and auto thefts all decreased by 15% or less.
Arson saw a big drop with 66 being reported in 2020 and 30 in 2021.
“A lot of the attorneys who work in this office live in the City of Richmond. I live in the City of Richmond,” McEachin said. “It impacts us every day. These are our neighbors, these are our friends, these are people who, you know, hopefully, were contributing to Richmond in a good way.”
So what’s the solution?
A spokesperson for RPD said the fix needs to be multi-faceted, just like the problem.
“As seen nationwide, violent crime is on an upward trend in 2021, while both major crimes and property crimes are down within our community,” Tracy Walker with RPD said. “To address violent crime, RPD has been chosen as one of 10 departments within the nation to join the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and its National Public Safety Partnership (PSP).”
Major crimes include homicides, aggravated assault, robbery, rape and property crimes. With a decrease in property crimes and some aggravated assaults, data shows that the whole of major crimes are down slightly, compared to this time last year.
“As a partner agency, RPD will receive intensive training and technical assistance from DOJ in the areas of gun violence, criminal justice collaboration, investigations, constitutional policing, community engagement, federal partnerships, crime analysis, and technology to identify, assess, and implement collaborative strategies and a lasting coordination structure to prevent and combat violent crime, especially related to gun, drug, and gang violence,” Walker said.
But more than anything, Walker said that the work to end such violence in the City of Richmond must be collective, through community policing, positive communication and support for one another from local residents.
She also noted that while additional staffing to allow for more officers on the streets would be beneficial, it is not the sole solution.
McEachin expressed a similar sentiment.
“Because homicides are so detail-oriented and so intense, it requires a lot of attorney diligence and time and labor and resources, and we are doing the best we can with the great staff of attorneys that we have,” the Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney said. “But we need all hands on deck and we need more attorneys so that we can better prosecute these crimes and provide more justice to these grieving families.”