RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA) is in the early stages of planning and assembling a security police force for the authority’s six largest public housing communities.
The RRHA’s newly appointed CEO, Steven Nesmith, said the proposed security force would be a “resident-led community policing effort,” with an emphasis on communication between members of the force and residents of the following six communities:
- Creighton Court
- Fairfield Court
- Gilpin Court
- Hillside Court
- Mosby Court
- Whitcomb Court
The announcement comes after a number of incidents of violence at these locations — including the deadly shooting of 15-year-old Tynashia Humphrey in Gilpin Court in September.
“The residents have said this is what they want,” Nesmith said. “The residents have come to me and said, ‘Mr. Nesmith, if you do anything, please bring back some security and policing in our communities so we won’t be scared to walk — not just at night — but during the day.”
According to Nesmith, members of this proposed force will be armed and will have the authority to make arrests, however, they will do so in coordination with the Richmond Police Department. Nesmith said he would be meeting with Acting Chief of Police Rick Edwards to discuss insights and training for the proposed security force in the coming weeks.
“We will [also] be sitting down with our legal counsel to make sure that this process that we are putting in place meets the laws of Richmond and the Commonwealth,” Nesmith said.
Nesmith said he couldn’t give any definitive numbers as to the size of the proposed security force — as specifics on the deployment would be influenced by the input of the residents and the Richmond Police Department.
“We’re not going to go out and get any security force, we’re actually going to bring in a force that has experience with public housing authorities,” Nesmith said. “I won’t say who it is right now, because that will be for a different announcement next year.”
Prior to 2014, the RRHA had its own police force but the Department of Housing and Urban Development eventually pulled funding for housing authorities all across the country.
Nesmith says he has now found “alternative financing” to fund RRHA’s proposed security force. The details of this funding have not yet been released but Nesmith expects it will be made public in February 2023.
“We understand that to stop violence in the big six communities here in Richmond, [it] will not be policing alone,” Nesmith said.
Along with the proposed security force, Nesmith says the housing authority will also be offering job training and apprenticeship programs to residents of the community.
“I’m excited about it. I’m excited about it because we are going to have a company that comes in and gives job training for public housing residents,” Nesmith said. “Our goal is to save those young kids.”
Nesmith said he expects the proposed security force to begin protecting public housing communities in late February 2023.