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.”

He rightfully noted a 19% reduction in homicides in the City compared to last year, but, major crimes were up 28% in the first six months of the year and there has been a major increase in property theft — 4,134 incidents so far this year (3,119 though June 2021).

He also said: “We will also measure ourselves on the successes we have. So, if an individual uses one of our programs to rise out of poverty and get a good job or a second chance is given to someone that could have been steered towards violence and instead, they’ve moved into something that allows them to contribute to our community, those are the sort of success stories we want to see out of our city.”

But will we measure ourselves? How many times have we heard that? What he stated is true and an admirable goal, but I sure would like to see him hold a press conference in six or 12 months to show the data that demonstrates those successes envisioned actually occurred.

When Burns brought up the July 4th fiasco, she asked: “There were questions about whether Dogwood Dell was the actual target, there were police officers who were there who weren’t aware of a possible threat and then there were questions from the community. If we are building trust, aren’t those questions that need to be answered?

Stoney: “Yes, obviously trust is a major component to strengthening the relationship between the police department and the city and its people. However, sometimes, we are unable to answer questions, particularly when investigations are ongoing. Sometimes, you have to do a more thorough investigation to get more answers to some of the questions.”

Gee, now that the Feds have the July 4th fiasco mass shooting case, maybe the Mayor could (and should) listen to himself and direct his Chief of Police to do a “more thorough investigation to get more answers to some of the questions” that we all want to know — and deserve. If the Feds charge the suspects with immigration violations and deport them to Guatemala and the case is over, will we get the truth of what really happened? If “trust is a major component to strengthening the relationship between the police department and the city and its people” as Stoney said, then it’s pretty simple that engaging our communities and providing answers to questions should be first, second, and third on his list.

But don’t bet on it.

This column has been republished with permission from RVA 5X5.