Richmond police to add civilians in effort to combat violence

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond’s Police Chief Will Smith announced Tuesday he’s adding more personnel to the ranks in an effort to combat violence in the city.

The new personnel won’t be wearing a badge though.

“We are looking to bring on-board civilians who have credibility in the community,” Chief Smith explained.

Smith said the civilians chosen would discuss conflict resolution and offer guidance to others in the community.

“I have both positions and the funding to move forward and we are moving forward on that,” the chief said.

The announcement followed a new report from Chief Smith finding the motive for the majority of the 53 homicides in Richmond so far this year was related to an argument.

Forty percent of the homicides this year have been cleared and Smith expects the clearance rate to increase by the end of the year. Regardless, he sees concerning trends.

Most of the murders are happening in or near the city’s public housing communities. The majority of the victims are young adults ages 19 to 35 and in most cases the offender is no stranger to the victim.

“It is unusual for us to have a homicide which the victim and the suspect are not known to one another. It is generally a relationship issue in which violence is the answer,” Smith said.

Chief Smith sees the new personnel as sort of civilian conflict managers, who can provide positive guidance or resources to help. He expects to launch the new program within the next few weeks.

As for the staffing of sworn officers, Smith said the department currently has 30 vacancies. He expects to fill 12 to 15 spots shortly but admits hiring and retaining officers in Richmond is a challenge.

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