Good News Story: Richmond’s Murder Arrest Rate

Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham — winning everybody’s confidence.

The City of Richmond’s school system leaves a lot to be desired, a fact I have belabored on this blog, but the city’s Police Department is doing a great job of fighting crime — so good that the Washington Post profiled the Richmond P.D. as an exemplar in closing murder cases.

Nationally, there have been 50,000 homicides in major American cities since 2007. Of those, 26,000 have not resulted in an arrest. But of the 50 cities studied, Richmond has the highest homicide arrest rate. The police have closed 70% of all murder cases. Writes the Post:

That outcome, police officials said, is the result of persistent community outreach that has helped encourage witnesses to cooperate.

“If I’m in the city, I’m at every scene,” said Chief Alfred Durham, a former D.C. police officer who has led Richmond’s department since early 2015. “People in the community need to see members of our command staff engaging and doing everything possible to close each case. . . . We’re out there building relationships.”

Detectives said they have worked hard to gain the confidence of potential witnesses by assuring that police will do all they can to protect them if they come forward.

The high arrest rate represents a significant turn-around from 12 years ago when Richmond had won the reputation as a mini-murder capital. After an overhaul of the department, murder rates have declined and arrest rates have soared.

While Richmond is among the smallest of the 50 cities studied, it has tremendous concentrations of poverty — with all the social pathologies that concentrated poverty creates. Little has changed economically or demographically that might explain the exceptional murder clearance rate. The improvement results from good community policing.

The building of trust between police and communities also is reflected in the different tenor of politics in the city. Not to say that there isn’t a racial divide over issues like Civil War statues, but Richmond doesn’t have the same kind of hyper-polarized racial animus seen in places like Baltimore and Chicago. That makes it a lot easier for someone like African-American Mayor Levar Stoney to govern as a moderate liberal — with an emphasis on the moderate. Now… if only some of that positive mojo can rub off on the city schools.

(Hat tip: Steve Nash)

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One response to “Good News Story: Richmond’s Murder Arrest Rate”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    I dunno… are we sure this is not just more “happy talk”? Even the most casual viewer of Blue Bloods KNOWS one of the most important guys on their police force is their 24/7 PR GUY! 😉

    I think Richmond has about one murder per week. Keep in mind suicides and opioid deaths. For every murder, there are two suicides.

    But the most important thing to recognize is that the police – no matter how involved they are in the community – can’t fix this (from the WaPO article):

    ” He had just gotten back into his car, a bottle of Dr Pepper and a bag of salt and vinegar chips in his hands, when a brick smashed into his driver’s side window.

    Moore looked up and saw three men approaching his car with more bricks and sticks.

    He threw it in reverse and sped away.

    “We’ve got to get out of here,” Moore replied.

    They called Crewell that day to tell him what happened and began the process of applying for housing elsewhere. They pulled their four kids out of school and started packing. By the next month, they had left Gilpin for good.

    Today, Moore and Massey live elsewhere in Virginia, in a nondescript, sparsely furnished apartment with no air conditioning, no longer near his mother in Richmond.

    The Richmond Police Department helped pay for their moving costs, but uprooting and relocating so quickly set them back financially. Several of the bedrooms lack dressers, and for the past few months, Moore has struggled to pay his phone bill.”

    Most of us tend to think this is what happens when you end up living in public housing – and imagine for a moment how the local neighborhood school functions with kids of parents who live there; imagine what kinds of teachers take a job at that school to teach…

    Now imagine the criticisms of the school … “bad parents”, “bad teachers”, “disruptive kids and discipline problems”, etc, etc.

    A place where “doing the right thing” will get you killed if you don’t run away as fast as you can.

    It will take more than “community policing” and “good teachers” to fix it – but the reality is – if we don’t – it festers – from generation to generation.

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