RICHMOND, Va. — Richmond leaders announced new public safety efforts Tuesday intended to help stem an uptick in deadly gun violence centered in the capital city’s public housing communities.
Richmond’s mayor, police chief, top prosecutor and public housing authority CEO held a news conference Tuesday morning to address recent violence that’s included a spate of shootings over eight days that left nine people dead. In just one day, four people were killed at a public apartment complex near downtown.
“Our prayers go out to the families of the victims,” Mayor Levar Stoney said. “But I want us to not only come together to mourn their loss but to strengthen our resolve as a community to do everything we can to stop the violence. This is our plea for peace.”
Stoney said he had instructed Police Chief Alfred Durham and Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority CEO T.K. Somanath to take any legal means “to redouble their efforts to stem the tide of violence.”
Police are struggling to deal with crime at four public housing communities in particular, Durham said. He announced he has added two footmen to patrol one of those communities and said when residents are served warrants, they will be evicted.
But Durham, whose voice rose at times as he spoke, emphasized that police also need more help from residents. People living in those communities are too reluctant to speak out when a crime is committed or unwilling to testify against the perpetrators, he said.
“It’s very disheartening for us when we come to the scene and we want to help and in certain communities, our most challenging communities, that folks, they’re not giving us that help,” he said.
So far this year, Richmond has had 46 homicides, Durham said. Last year, the city reported 61 in its deadliest year in a decade.
Somanath, the housing director, said the authority is putting in more lighting and installing cameras to better monitor the communities. Beginning in October, the authority is implementing a car registration and decal program to help officials identify suspicious vehicles, he said.
Officials also said that in the long term, Richmond’s public housing system, which serves nearly 10,000 residents, needs an overhaul.
Its aging buildings, many of which were built in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, are mainly concentrated in the city’s east end, and create a “recipe for the problems,” Somanath said.
James “J.J.” Minor, president of the local NAACP, which has a committee that focuses on housing issues, said he was encouraged to hear about the additional foot patrols and would support a bigger police presence at public housing communities. He added that neither the police nor the community should be blaming one another.
“We all need to own this. It shouldn’t be just one group,” he said. “We all need to participate and take part in decreasing violence in our community.”