Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney has introduced a pair of public safety ordinances targeting gun violence and distracted driving in the City of Richmond.
Mayor Stoney announced both of the ordinances during a Wednesday morning press conference inside City Hall. Both must go before and be passed by City Council before being implemented.
The first ordinance Mayor Stoney announced Wednesday would require any resident who loses or has a firearm stolen to report the loss or theft within 24 hours. Failure to do so would result in a civil penalty.
Under the ordinance, offenders could face a $125 fine for the first offense and a $250 fee for any subsequent offenses.
According to a release from the city, 354 firearms have been reported stolen in the city this year, including 186 from vehicles alone. State law currently classifies the theft of any firearm — regardless of value — as grand larceny. Mayor Stoney, however, believes the General Assembly hasn’t done enough to prevent gun thefts.
“We all need to play a role in keeping our communities safe, and we can no longer wait for the General Assembly to act,” Mayor Stoney said. “This piece of legislation will be another tool in the toolbox of our police department that will help reduce crime and improve public safety.”
Mayor Stoney said this ordinance would take effect ‘immediately’ upon passage by City Council.
The second ordinance, aimed at limiting distracted driving, would penalize drivers who use a handheld device behind the wheel. Mayor Stoney explained that while a driver cannot be pulled over simply for using a handheld device, Richmond Police officers would ticket offenders under the new ordinance if they witness evidence of distracted driving, such as speeding, swerving or running a stop sign.
In 2018, 73 crashes were the result of a driver using a cell phone behind the wheel, according to a release from the city. The release also stated that due to ‘underreporting,’ the actual number of distracted driving crashes is likely much higher.
“Distracted driving is the new drunk driving, and it’s a public health crisis we can fix.” — Louise Lockett Gordon, Director of Bike Walk RVA
According to Ruth Morrison, Policy Director with the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts, 1 in 12 drivers in the Commonwealth are classified as “phone addicts,” and that number is expected to climb to one in five by 2022, which would make Virginia the most dangerous state in the U.S. when it comes to distracted driving.
“Instead of waiting for the next life lost, the next child or mother, teacher or neighbor, to be killed or injured by a distracted driver, our city is working proactively to make safety on our streets a priority,” Morrison said.
“No phone call or text is worth risking a human life,” — Janet Brooking, Executive Director of Drive Smart Virginia
Mayor Stoney added, “as a city, we must take the necessary steps to address the dangers of distracted driving, and we will not stand idly by as pedestrians, bicyclists, transit-users and fellow drivers are put in harm’s way.”
If Mayor Stoney’s distracted driving ordinance is passed, Richmond would join Spotsylvania County and the City of Hampton as the only Virginia localities to enact laws targeting. The new law would go into effect six months after adoption in order to allow for an ‘educational period.’
Laura Perrot is following this story and will have a full report tonight on 8News at 5 & 6
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