The number of homicides in Richmond this year rose to 14 on Saturday when a deadly shooting occurred in the Taco Bell parking lot on 23rd St. and Barrett Ave. The Contra Costa County Coroner’s office confirmed the identity of the victim as Javier Campos, 38, of Richmond. Richmond Police spokeswoman Detective Nicole Abetkov said the victim was shot in the abdomen and died later at the hospital as a result of his injuries.
Homicides are down about 40% from the same time last year but that’s small comfort to Richmond Police Captain Mark Gagan. “We don’t want to celebrate that too much, especially in the face of the murder on Saturday,” said Gagan. Gagan was also careful not to give the police department too much credit for the reduction in crime this year. According to information provided by the RPD, violent crime is down slightly, just 1% from the same period last year.
“It’s the community working with us,” Gagan said, naming the Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS) and the year old Ceasefire program, a nationally recognized violence prevention program, as key partners in helping to reduce crime.
Pastor Henry Washington, Project Manager of Ceasefire said, “This year more and more people are attributing one of the largest factors (in crime prevention) to be Ceasefire.” Washington said that he believes Ceasefire, a program that started outreach to the community in March of this year, has helped affect positive change because of its focus on collaboration with various community groups and the police department.
“Formerly there had been this mindset for every entity that does this work, that it does it alone or the best,” Washington said. “Collaborative efforts are the real reason we’re starting to sing the same fight song and say we’re on the same team. That will help with continued drop in homicides– that, and that alone,” he added. However, Washington cautioned that with credit comes the good and the bad.
“We’re very careful to say what attributes to this drop because it’s a two-way sword. If you say I’m responsible for the drop in violence you also have to say I’m responsible for the spike,” he said.
DeVone Boggan, Director of ONS, said working with the community is the key. “It’s just a good feeling right now,” Boggan said regarding the downward trend over the last few years of homicides, shootings and assault with firearms.
“We’re learning, we’re growing and we’re doing things together and we have a community that is much more viably engaged, he said.
While overall numbers continue to drop for violent crime, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of reported rapes. At this point there are 31 reported rapes, slightly more than double over the same time period last year—and the highest for the time period over at least the last five years. Abetkov said that this is likely a result of increased reporting of rapes by victims, rather than an overall increase in rapes. “We have a detective assigned to human trafficking now,” she said, adding that his investigation into that community has likely resulted in more women coming forward.
Boggan and Abetkov both expressed unease at taking statistics too seriously at this point. “We don’t use the ‘Q’ word,” Abetkov said when asked if things were quieter around Richmond.
“It can blow up at any moment. We know how fragile it is,” said Boggan.