Category Archives: Crime , corrections and law enforcement

To Be Elected Or Not

Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham in “Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.” He was unaccountable, too.

by Jim McCarthy

The exploits of Robin Hood and his band of merry men in the cover of Sherwood Forest have been colored heroic as they engaged in a redistribution of wealth from one class of Englishmen to another. The Sheriff of Nottingham was a spoiler, though his mission was one of law and order as a minion of the king or royalty charged with maintaining peace and order while collecting taxes and rents (usually produce or farm animals) from the feudal estate and its serf residents. The sheriff (shire reeve) transplanted to the colonies morphed into an elective position and, in many instances to the present, is the sole and primary law enforcement officer in a jurisdiction.

The Virginia Sheriffs’ Association (VSA) counts 123 members responsible for the management of 8,000 to 9,000 deputies and staff. Most residents are familiar with the broad range of duties performed by sheriffs, from law enforcement to supervision of county and regional jails (with about 28,000 inmates), to service of process (over 3 million events), and security for city and county courts. Just over half of the sheriffs identify politically as independent; 29% as Republican; 15% as Democrat. Of the thirty city sheriffs, nine identify as independent, nine as Democrat, six as Republican, and six with no affiliation.

Whether a political party can represent a more appealing choice or prospect for enforcement of the law is debatable and likely irrelevant to voters. In the nation’s contemporary hyper-partisan environment, however, political intrusion into every electoral office has become the norm. At the end of 2019, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors announced plans to create a county police department, in part it said, related to asserting civilian authority over the jurisdiction’s policing. The county’s sheriff proclaimed that the move was unnecessary because his office was held responsible and accountable every four years at election time. Besides, he offered, the proposal was a mere power grab by political opponents. Continue reading

Why Local Leaders Won’t Say The G Word

by Kerry Dougherty

If you want to understand what’s going on with the surge in violent crime in Tidewater, you really need to watch the movie “Jaws.”

Remember how the mayor of Amity wanted to keep the beaches open even after he knew that a massive, man-eating Great White shark was feeding in local waters?

Well, that’s what’s going on around here, but with gang activity. No one wants to talk about it, because it might discourage tourism and investment. Never mind that not only are gang members shooting each other, but sometimes innocents are caught in the crossfire.

Instead, local leaders wring their hands, clear their throats, hold meetings and politely talk around the problem.

Heck, if they’re lucky, they’ll even get glowing newspaper coverage — with headlines like “Hampton Roads Leaders Zero In on Crime” — to show that they’re taking “gun violence” seriously.

Oh, please. Continue reading

Hoax Epidemic

Scene outside of Charlottesville High School yesterday. Photo credit: Daily Progress

by James A. Bacon

In the latest sign of spreading social disorder, Virginia underwent a plague of school hoaxes yesterday. According to media reports, incidents included:

  • The Loudoun County sheriff’s office and Leesburg police were notified of acts of violence at Loudoun Valley and Loudoun County high schools. The reports were false.
  • In Arlington County, officers responded to a false report in a 911 call of a possible act of violence at Washington-Liberty High School.
  • The Culpeper County school system placed all schools on lockdown after a 911 caller reported an “active shooter.”
  • A 911 caller told the Charlottesville police that there was an active shooter at the Charlottesville High School. (Eleven days ago, Albemarle County police had responded to a threat to Western Albemarle High School made through social media.)
  • E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg was placed on lockdown after a 911 caller alerted authorities to someone potentially being inside the high school with a gun.

There’s nothing new about shooting and bomb hoaxes. What is new is the epidemic-like frequency with which they are occurring. Apparently, the practice of reporting violent incidents in school buildings has reached such a critical mass that it now has a name — swatting. Continue reading

Do Slumlords Contribute to Violent Crime?

This map shows the correlation between rates of violence in the City of Richmond and tax delinquency by corporate landlords.

by James A. Bacon

In the previous post, I argued that the underlying cause of violence in the City of Richmond is social breakdown stemming from erosion of the family structure and the resultant failure to teach children the skills they need to avoid and resolve conflicts.

In the great philosophical debate over the extent to which individuals and communities have agency over their own fates and the degree to which they are victims of outside forces, I stand on the side of individual agency. By contrast, Samuel J. West, an assistant professor of psychology at Virginia State University, belongs in the structuralist camp.

During his post-doctoral research at Virginia Commonwealth University, West led a research team that uncovered a link between urban violence and slumlords who failed to maintain their properties. Their findings were published by PLOS One in the article, “Comparing forms of neighborhood instability as predictors of violence in Richmond, VA.

“It is not the residents of high-violence neighborhoods that have constructed a disorganized environment conducive to antisocial behaviors,” the study says, “but those who hold power over the structural features of these neighborhoods, despite not residing within them.” Continue reading

There Is No Socially Engineered Solution to Drive-by Killings

Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

In a protest that will never make the national news, an estimated 75 people turned out for a weekend march in Richmond to denounce the latest killing of a child in a drive-by shooting. Fifteen-year-old Tynashia Humphrey was walking to the store from her grandmother’s home near the infamous Gilpin Court housing project when she was struck by a stray bullet. “Stop the killing! Save the children!” the marchers chanted.

“My baby had only been 15 for two weeks,” Karen Cheatham, the girl’s grandmother and guardian, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “She was walking to the store. She was out of my hands for two hours. She was supposed to return back to me at 9 o’clock to get ready for school…. Hold on to your babies and hold on to them tight because tomorrow is not promised to none of us.”

The march, I fear, is totally in vain. I see no sign that city politicians, General Assembly legislators, or the media have any inkling of why killings have spiked in the past two years, much less what to do about them. As a society, we are flailing ineffectually as we continue to apply the same bromides that never contained much truth to begin with.

One of the politicians to attend the rally was Delegate Dolores McQuinn, D-Richmond. Her words are worth quoting at length because they mix the failed conventional wisdom with flashes of insight. Continue reading

Watch Out, Nigerian Princes Are Using Bitcoin and VPNs Now

by James A. Bacon

Nigerian scam artists are upping their game. Ten or twenty years ago, they bombarded the Internet with tales of African potentates and lost fortunes that only the favored email recipient could help recover… if he or she could provide a small bank deposit first. There were so many of these entertaining missives that they constituted a literary genre all their own. I saved literally dozens of them with the thought that they might be worth packaging into a book one day, but in a fit of madness, I deleted them all to clear out my computer. I hope someone else saved them for posterity.

Sadly (from a literary perspective), the flood of emails ended almost as suddenly as it began as Americans grew wise and law enforcement authorities cracked down. But the Nigerian scam artists did not disappear, it appears. Ever-resilient, they reinvented themselves for the cyber era.

And Virginia Commonwealth University was a victim, having wired out $470,000 in the belief that it was paying bills to construction company Kjellstrom and Lee. In August a man with dual United Kingdom and Nigerian citizenship, Olabanji Oladotun Egbinola, was extradited to the U.S. in connection with the case. The latest wrinkle on the news story is that a Los Angeles-based businessman has been indicted on charges of laundering the money. Continue reading

Norfolk Has a Crime Problem

by Kerry Dougherty

It was a fabulous moment in Norfolk. On Friday night Old Dominion University clinched ANOTHER football victory over Virginia Tech, this one in the last minute of play. When the final whistle blew the ecstatic fans poured out of the stands and onto the field.

One of the TV commentators gazed at the happy celebration said something like, “Can you imagine the bars in Norfolk tonight?’

Yes, I can, I thought to myself. I hope no one gets shot.

No one did get shot. That night. By Monday morning, two people would be shot dead at a house party blocks away from the ODU campus.

That’s the kind of lawless place Norfolk has become. A spate of shootings on Granby Street caused the city to close bars there early and threaten business owners with closure if they can’t control the customers they serve. Continue reading

Those Violent Red States

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Crime is again a top story, both in the national media and on this blog.

Many on this blog seem to think they have identified what is behind the recent rise in crime, especially homicides and other violent crimes. Two years ago, Jim Bacon pointed out that the Commonwealth had the fourth lowest crime rate in the nation. Now, he does not seem so optimistic, lamenting, “What we’re seeing now is the result of a thorough de-legitimization of the criminal justice system by America’s political, media and cultural elites.” Other commenters voice the same alarm, blaming progressives, “woke” prosecutors, and general soft-on-crime policies. Essentially, they blame Democratic leaders. See here, here, and here.

The facts tell a different story. According to the most recent data from the FBI, Virginia still has one of the lowest crime rates in the nation. Its rate of 208.7 violent crimes per 100,000 population is the sixth lowest, lower than even that of super-conservative Wyoming (234.2). For a table showing all the violent crime rates, see Crime rates. Continue reading

A Chance for Petersburg

Credit: Urban News Weekly

by James C. Sherlock

The Youngkin administration is doing an unalloyed good thing the exact right way. In partnership with two Democrats.

The Governor, in an extraordinary joint presentation with his cabinet secretaries and Democratic Mayor Samuel Parham, laid out a plan for broad state help to Petersburg.

Standing on the stage with Democratic State Senator Joe Morrissey.

Parham, speaking to reporters, said

Governor Youngkin is the first to step down here and say that he is going to put all of his resources in a city to move the dial to create prosperity here in the city of Petersburg. Democrats and Republicans working together — that’s what makes Virginia special.

Occasionally. Continue reading

Getting Rid of the Bad Apples

Photo credit: ABC News

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

There is a tendency in government to enact reform or establish new programs and then move on. Often, there is little or no circling back, by government or the media, to examine how the changes have been implemented or what effect they have had.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I intend to discuss the implementation of some of the changes in the criminal justice system enacted by the 2020 General Assembly. As with any major changes in a complex system, two years will have been insufficient time for many major effects to become evident. However, it is fair to examine how well their implementation is progressing.

Of all the criminal justice and law-enforcement reforms considered by the General Assembly in its 2020 Special Session, the need to get the “bad apples” out of law enforcement probably was the one that attracted the most support from all factions, including the law enforcement community. Continue reading

Pretrial Services Agencies: A Rejoinder

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

My colleague, James Sherlock, recently posted an article in which he concluded that the Commonwealth’s pretrial agency program is a failure. I took issue with his basic conclusions, but did not have enough details handy to make my case. I now have more information.

His conclusion was based on data shown in a report put out by the Virginia State Crime Commission in its study of the state’s pretrial program. A table summarizing the data showed that, in localities served by a pretrial services agency (PSA), 14.5% of the suspects released while awaiting trial failed to appear for their court date. Furthermore, 24% were arrested for a new crime. Because the data did not include all the new crimes that may have been committed, he extrapolated the data and proposed that 45% of the offenders released were pre-trial recidivists or failures to appear (FTA). (One error was his failure to account for some double-counting. Some of those 24% who were arrested for a new crime may also have been in the FTA pool. But that is not important for this discussion.) Based on this conclusion, he went on to declare that the risk assessment tool used by pretrial services officers to make their recommendations is a failure. Continue reading

Talking Crime

by Jon Baliles

Candace Burns of CBS6 sat down with Mayor Stoney this week to talk crime, gun violence, and alleged plots. It was an interesting discussion, and while a lot of it is political fluff and rhetoric, Stoney does deserve some credit for some straight talk.

What we recognize is that 26% of the violent crimes that are happening in the City of Richmond are occurring in 2% of the 60 square miles of the City of Richmond [Richmond is actually 62.5 square miles, FYI]. We’re directing our resources and we are putting community policing and data overlaying on top of it and then overlaying that with our prevention and intervention framework as well.

Because the police are so far below budgeted (and needed) staffing, resources have to be deployed more strategically. But shifting resources around haphazardly will not make the City safer until we can recruit more officers and increase training and restore trust with the community. He said police are focused on high-crime areas and youth prevention, but when asked about the framework how the City is addressing gun violence, he offered the usual talking points like “we had a task force,” “worked with non-profits,” and “focused on a human services.” Continue reading

Youngkin on the Mar-a-Lago Raid

What do you think of Governor Glenn Youngkin’s comparison? Does former President Trump’s behavior on Jan. 6, 2021, warrant special attention by federal law enforcement? Or have the DOJ and FBI become servants of the new ruling class, intent upon prosecuting only the transgressions of the political right? If the latter (remembering that this is a Virginia blog), how can Virginia, as a co-sovereign state in a federal system, push back?

Meanwhile, the Homicide Rate Keeps Climbing

From January to June this year, the seven largest localities of Hampton Roads have seen 115 homicides — up from 88 the same time last year, a 30% increase. Newport News and Hampton experienced a dip, but homicides have surged in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach and Suffolk, reports The Virginian-Pilot.


Welcome to America, Land Where Killers Roam Free

by James A. Bacon

Adrian de Jesus Rivera Guzman, 48, and his stepson Juan Carlos Anaya Hernandez, 24, immigrants who had fled gang violence in Central America, were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were innocent bystanders doing landscaping work outside the Assembly Alexandria apartment complex when they were killed by gunfire.

Details of the July 16 shooting are sparse, as reported by The Washington Post, and police are still investigating the homicides. But Alexandria authorities have linked the incident to a burglary at the upscale apartment complex and have identified a suspect,  27-year-old Francis Deonte Rose, who had been released from custody in neighboring Arlington County several months earlier after prosecutors dropped drug and weapons charges against him.

Republicans have blamed Arlington’s progressive, George Soros-funded Commonwealth Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti (D) for the tragedy.  She has responded by calling the GOP accusations “an outrageous and irresponsible lie.”

Rose had repeated encounters with the law. He had been charged in Washington, D.C., and Arlington with carrying firearms illegally in the past, charged for unlawful possession of a loaded .45-caliber handgun that police recovered after he threw it to the ground during a foot chase, and possessing cocaine and fentanyl with intent to distribute.

Continue reading