by James C. Sherlock
I wrote Friday that Fredericksburg has a major crime problem.
After hours of plowing through state crime statistics for 2021, I can now declare Fredericksburg the crime capital of Virginia.
Public safety is the number one job of local government, followed by running its schools.
The statistics suggest the Fredericksburg law enforcement system — the courts, the Commonwealth’s Attorney and the police department — and the school system have failed.
Fredericksburg may wish to acknowledge that by doing something about it. I suggested reversion to town status. I don’t expect that to happen, at least anytime soon.
The Fredericksburg criminal justice system does not work.
- I don’t have access to their court data, but the Commonwealth’s Attorney proudly does not want to lock criminals up. She call that type of prosecution “community facing.” I call it community defacing.
- The state Office of Criminal Justice Services currently accredits 104 Virginia law enforcement agencies (LEAs) that meet commonly accepted professional standards for efficient and effective agency operation established by the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission (VLESPSC). But not the Fredericksburg police.
- Yet Fredericksburg has the largest drug crime problem per capita of any medium or large jurisdiction in the state.
Something needs to wake them up.
The accreditation program. The Commonwealth has under the Department of Criminal Justice Services a Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission (VLEPSC).
to provide law enforcement agencies in the Commonwealth with an avenue for demonstrating that they meet commonly accepted standards for efficient and effective agency operation.
Standards address administration; operations; personnel; and training.
The non-participating LEAs simply don’t want to adopt and be inspected under those standards. Fredericksburg PD doesn’t.
Virginia’s High Crime Rate Jursidictions. Now, as reported by the Virginia State Police, let’s look at the jurisdictions
- with Group A crime rates, measured in crimes per 100,000 residents, of over 5,000 in 2021 (report valid as of Mar. 16, 2022); and
- in jurisdictions with over 10,000 residents, a minimum cut-off point chosen by the author to ensure statistical relevance.
Below is a list, in descending order, of Group A crime rates per 100,000 residents; the list is limited to jurisdictions with populations greater than 25,000. I have added notable (to the eye of the author) Group A offenses in absolute numbers and have listed the Virginia state accreditation status of the LEAs:
- Fredericksburg (Neither PD nor Sheriff’s Office accredited) rate 9,317 / pop. 27,956 / Notable: murder and manslaughter (3); sex crimes (35); assaults and intimidations (914); drugs (382); weapons (60). Note: State Police reported 13 drug crimes and seven weapons violations in Fredericksburg — presumably on the short stretch of I-95 in that city); Spotsylvania County and Stafford County rates less than 3,000. Of the two, only Stafford showed notable drug crimes with 784 in a population of 159,247. Meanwhile, on the tiny tree-shaded campus centered among this mayhem, UMW police reported only 40 crimes in 2021, among them three assaults and nine drug crimes. The rest were crimes against property.
- Roanoke (City) (PD not accredited, Sheriff’s Office accredited) rate 9,290 / pop. 99,883 /Notable: assaults & intimidation (3,124); arson (26); burglary and B&E (473); drugs (1,068); weapons (334). Note: the state police reported an additional 145 drug crimes in Roanoke City.
- Portsmouth (Neither PD nor Sheriff’s Dept. accredited) rate 8,065 / pop. 97,883 / Notable: murder & manslaughter (36); assaults & intimidations (2,352); drugs (233); weapons (204).
- Danville (PD and Sheriff’s Dept. accredited) rate 7,928 / pop. 42,597 / Notable: murders (6); sex crimes (35); assaults and intimidation (1,216); drugs (326) weapons (182).
- Norfolk (PD not accredited; Sheriff’s Office accredited) rate 6,860 / pop. 238,102 / Notable — murder (62), sex crimes (245); assaults and intimidations (4,998); drugs (876); juvenile arrests (116). Note: the State Police reported two additional murders/manslaughters and a kidnapping in Norfolk.
- Pulaski – rate about 6,500 listed separately:
- Pulaski County Sheriff (not accredited) rate 5,596 / pop. 22,425 / Notable: murder and manslaughter (3); assaults and intimidations (473); arsons (5); drugs (92); weapons (26). Note: The state police reported an additional manslaughter in Pulaski County)
- Pulaski Police (accredited) rate 7,578 / population 8,657 / Notable: assaults and intimidations (103); drugs (193)
- Winchester (PD and Sheriff’s Office both accredited) rate 6,342 / pop. 28,021 / Notable: assaults & intimidations (525) drugs (282); weapons (51). Note: the state police reported 147 additional drug crimes in Winchester.
- Richmond (City) (PD not accredited, Sheriff’s Office accredited) rate 6,163 / pop. 226,623 / Notable : murder and manslaughter (89); kidnapping 35; assaults & intimidation (3,009); drugs (599); weapons (962)
- Hampton (neither PD nor Sheriff’s Office accredited) rate 6,037 / pop 136,581 / Notable: murder (27); kidnapping (42); sex crimes (111); arson (24); drugs (575); weapons (694). Note: State Police reported 19 assaults in Hampton.
- Lynchburg (PD not accredited; Sheriff’s Office accredited) rate 5,661 / pop. 80,054 / Notable: murder & manslaughter (9); sex crimes (77); assaults & intimidations (1,726); drugs (720); weapons (244). Note: The state police reported 39 additional drug crimes in Lynchburg.
- Staunton (neither PD nor Sheriff’s Office accredited) rate 5,535 / Pop. 25,874 / Notable: assaults & intimidation (404); arson (4); drugs (178).
- Newport News (PD not accredited, Sheriff’s office accredited) rate 5,283 / pop 185,082 / Notable: murder (29); kidnappings (108); assaults and intimidations (3.797); drugs (491); weapons violations (1,187); juvenile arrests (100).
- Suffolk (PD not accredited; Sheriff’s Office accredited) rate 5,206 / Pop. 96,130 / Notable: murder & manslaughter (6); assaults and intimidation (2,076); arson (15); drugs (259); weapons (218).
- Charlottesville (PD accredited; Sheriff’s office unaccredited) rate 5,113 / pop. 51,079 / Notable: sex crimes (68); assaults/ intimidations (795); drugs (159); weapons (41)
- Petersburg (PD accredited; Sheriff’s Office accredited) rate 5,050 / pop. 32,912 / Notable: murder and manslaughter (18); assaults and intimidations (438); drugs (98); weapons (168).
- Manassas (neither PD not Sheriff’s office accredited) rate 5,028/ pop. 42,733 / Notable: kidnapping (15); sex crimes (51); assaults and intimidations (715); drugs (281).
State Police. Another finding from the data: the state police report a lot of drug and weapons crimes.
In addition to the notes above, state police reported an astonishing 284 drug crimes in Harrisonburg in 2021, presumably mostly on I-81. Other major drug crime areas reported by the state police were Frederick County (205), Rockingham (126), Shenandoah County (121), and Warren County (151).
Other Agencies. Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police reported 57 drug crimes and 770 weapons violations. The state Department of Wildlife Resources reported 161 weapons violations and 30 drug crimes.
Among the university and college PDs, the busiest were VCU (865, including five kidnappings); Virginia Tech (715); UVa (521, including six forcible rapes); JMU (232 including two rapes and 59 drug crimes); and CNU (156 including three forcible rapes and 39 drug crimes).
Fredericksburg Crime. Fredericksburg is, by state statistics, the crime capital of Virginia. Nearly two out of ten were involved in a Class A crime in 2021 either as perpetrator or victim.
Its drug crime problem is the biggest in the state among middle- and large-sized communities. The users commit property crimes to feed their habit. The sellers assault one another and innocents nearby.
Is there a gang problem? Of course there is. With the massive drug crime problem, Fredericksburg has a gang problem. So does Stafford County.
Yet the Commonwealth’s Attorney recoils against use of the jail and prisons. Or even taking truants and their families to J&D court.
The PD has not bothered with accreditation. Accreditation is not a silver bullet to crime suppression, but it does measure professionalism and, as importantly, it signifies interest in professionalism by participation in the program. And they might learn new skills in the process.
Fredericksburg Schools. Fredericksburg Public Schools have been abandoned by many of their registered students, to the point that the Superintendent directly misrepresented absenteeism to the School Board in 2021. Their SOL scores are abominable.
Even with the numbers public record, the system signals no interest in curing chronic absenteeism.
Does the drug problem, and thus the gang problem, impact the Fredericksburg schools? Yes. Whether they acknowledge it or not.
Fix it, or at least try. The adults who run the school system and the criminal justice system in Fredericksburg clearly either just don’t care, haven’t noticed, are utterly incompetent or all three.
Having among the worst schools and the worst crime problem is not an accomplishment.
Revert to town status, Fredericksburg. Let other adults give suppressing crime and running your schools a try. To save your children. You haven’t.
Updated Nov 14 at 8:07 AM