Richmond Police Chief William C. Smith

Richmond Police Chief William C. Smith spoke during his swearing in ceremony at VUU’s Coburn Hall last July. Over the past year, the city has employed several new approaches in hopes of curbing gun violence and homicides.

The Richmond Police Department’s year-end crime statistics offer a sobering picture of how gun violence continues to ravage communities across the city.

According to the RPD Crime Incident Information Center, 61 homicides took place in 2019. A Dec. 29 report, reflecting 59 of those homicides, said 88% of the murders were committed using firearms. Three people were killed on Christmas Day.

To curb gun violence in Richmond, the need for solutions persists. While nothing will bring back the lives lost in 2019, several efforts bring hope that 2020 will be a less violent year.

In March, RPD gained a new technology to help solve crimes. The city teamed up with Ring, a home security systems company, to use its free Neighbors app. The mobile platform helps police and community members securely share information and tips, including footage of suspected perpetrators.

“As it’s said often, a picture is worth a thousand words,” then-Interim Police Chief William Smith said during an announcement unveiling the partnership. “A video of an incident is worth a million.”

In November, Richmond City Council unanimously passed an ordinance proposed by Mayor Levar Stoney requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms within 24 hours of realizing an item is missing. More than 450 stolen weapons were reported to RPD last year, a recent WWBT-TV story said.

“This reporting requirement isn’t a fix-all, but this additional level of accountability and responsibility will go far toward protecting our community and providing police with another tool to keep our communities safe,” Stoney said in a November statement.

That same month, Smith announced plans to recruit civilians who can help officers. In a Nov. 26 presentation delivered to the City Council Public Safety Standing Committee, Smith unveiled data showing arguments are a top cause of homicides.

“Homicide reduction is far more than technology,” read the report delivered to council members. “It is a combination of personnel deployment, community support, youth activities, effective emergency response including medical services, technology to support investigations and response to incidents, and most importantly the building of trust within the community to address modern familial and societal issues.”

We agree. One homicide is too many — and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to save lives. We hope 2020 will be a year where Richmond builds on its multi-faceted approach and becomes a safer city.

Chris Gentilviso

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