RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In a press conference on Wednesday, Richmond’s Chief of Police, Rick Edwards, announced that violent crimes had, overall, remained low last year, but the department would be focusing on getting illegal firearms off the streets in 2023.

In his first crime briefing as Acting Chief, Edwards said the city’s murder rate had declined in 2022.

“In 2021, we had 90 murders. Last year, we had 59,” Edwards said. “That’s a 34% reduction.”

However, Edwards also said that there had been an uptick in non-deadly shootings — with 256 in 2022 compared to 244 in 2021. As a result, he announced that the department would be focusing on a number of hotspots in the city — including Whitcomb, Creighton, Fairfield, Gilpin and Mosby Courts as well as the Belt Atlantic Apartments.

Previously, when officers focused on those areas, Edwards said they had seen a reduction in crime.

“We saw a 73% reduction in murder — 27% in those neighborhoods,” he said. “In the Belt Atlantic, 33% reduction. And [an] overall reduction in the city.”

In addition, Edwards made a call to action for Richmond’s gun owners.

“Don’t leave your guns in the car,” he said. “At least lock them up.”

According to Edwards, 714 guns were stolen from cars in 2022. The majority of these firearm thefts occurred in Shockoe Bottom, Manchester and Scott’s Addition. Edwards said the number of illegal of firearms in the city could be contributing to violent crime.

“That number is totally unacceptable for us,” he said. “Just by the very nature that they were stolen [means they] ended up in the hands of criminals.”

Edwards also spoke about an uptick in property crimes overall, including catalytic converter theft data.