RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Mayor Levar Stoney and former Police Chief Gerald Smith announced in February that the city of Richmond would be taking new measures to fight gun violence. The violence interrupters were intended to serve as mediators for people at risk of committing violence. Ten months later, the question stands — where are they?
Fifty-two people have died in firearm-related homicides in the city of Richmond so far this year, according to a police spokesperson.
“We need an update. We need the mayor or the administration to come and give us a report and let us know,” said Richmond councilmember, Reva Trammell, at a recent city council meeting.
Trammell says she has unanswered questions. Questions that she suspects many other Richmond residents share.
“How many did you hire? How many are still there? What is their role? What are their hours?,” she asked.
During the February announcement, Smith claimed that said the recruited violence interrupters would provide outreach and conflicting mediation services in assigned areas and neighborhoods.
“These individuals will be from the streets,” Smith said at that time. “There’s no other way to put it. These people will come with some baggage. They will come with history. They will come with experience and connections to the community that we don’t have.”
In April, City Hall put out an official notice to hire three Violence Interrupters to help curb the violence. The deadline for applications was set to close on April 20. In June, 8News questioned Richmond Police on why there had been no updates — and we were told the hiring process had been delayed by ongoing background checks.
“We need more police officers to do the kind of policing that we used to do, that we want to do,” said Acting Chief of Police, Rick Edwards. “That’s community policing. Having our officers on foot, on bicycle, in the community and doing those things. Not just driving by.”
The wait for violence interrupters has led some parties to take their own action — earlier this week, the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority announced that it was in the early stages of assembling a security police force for its six major public housing communities.