Fewer Richmond homicides solved in 2013 than in previous years

A map showing all of the unsolved homicides in Richmond since 2009.  There have been 127 homicides in the city over the past five years, and in only 32 cases has a suspect been arrested and charged (Data from Richmond Police Department)

A map showing all of the unsolved homicides in Richmond since 2009. There have been 127 homicides in the city over the past five years, and in only 32 cases has a suspect been arrested and charged (Data from Richmond Police Department)

While the city is set to finish 2013 with its lowest homicide total in years, a far lower percentage of the killings have been solved, according to police statistics.

Sixteen people have been slain in Richmond this year. Only four of those homicide cases – or 25 percent – have been solved.

That’s a steep drop from last year, when more than half the city’s 18 homicides were cleared, meaning a suspect was detained and/or charged with the crime.

Sgt. Nicole Abetkov attributed the dip to factors outside of the department’s control, like witnesses being more reluctant to cooperate with police this year than in the past.

“It’s difficult for us to try and solve these cases without the public’s help,” she said.

Despite this year’s low homicide clearance rate, the city has come a long way toward curbing violence since Chief Chris Magnus took the helm, Abetkov said.

In 2006, Magnus’ first year on the job, Richmond recorded 42 homicides, making it the 9th most dangerous city in the United States, according to FBI statistics. In 2007, 47 people were slain in the city.

At that time it would have been hard to predict that only 16 people would be killed in 2013—although city leaders say that number is still far too high.

Over the past four years RPD has also become much more effective at solving cases.

Between 2009 and 2012, nearly half of all homicides were solved, up from 31 percent in 2006.  Lt. Andre Hill said the department’s community policing efforts have played a big role.

“It’s no secret that we used to meet resistance from the public in terms of cooperation,” Hill said. “But I think that now people are much more receptive to talk to the police.”

While the department’s homicide clearance rate didn’t reflect the improved community relations this year, Abetkov noted that police are still working hard to solve cases. Sometimes, even the most diligent investigation can be fruitless, she said.

During her time in the homicide division, Abtekov was assigned to the killing of 16-year-old Jerrell Moore.

“I followed every lead, I put up billboards offering rewards, I applied for the Governor’s reward,” which offers $50,000 to anyone who provided information leading to the perpetrator’s arrest and conviction.

Still, the case remains cold.

Police are asking the public to provide any information that could help them solve this year’s 12 unsolved homicides. “We understand people’s reluctance to come forward because of fear of retaliation and being labeled a snitch,” Abetkov said. “But we do everything in our power to protect them.”

To leave an anonymous tip you can call 510-232-TIPS.

3 Comments

  1. Just to add some clarification and additional information to this article: We have a number of cases each year, including in 2013, where we “know” who committed the homicide, but due to issues with witnesses, the time it takes for DNA or other evidence to be processed, and other factors beyond our control, we are not able to present the case yet to the DA–or the DA is not able to charge the case yet.

    This does not mean the case will not be ultimately charged. It does mean that our percentage of solved homicides for 2013 will continue to increase in the year ahead (2014) resulting in a higher clearance rate for 2013. This has happened each year prior to 2013.

    There is no statute of limitations for murder, so we make it a priority to work on cases from past years. As time passes, we often get more evidence and sometimes even other witnesses are willing to come forward. When this happens, we are able to close out more of these cases and our clearance rate goes up.

    Just a reminder–we have a standing $10K reward for any information leading to an arrest and successful prosecution in a homicide case. Our detectives are ALWAYS interested in talking to anyone who has more or new information about a murder case.

    We wish everyone a great New Year, but we never forget those families who lost loved ones to homicide. Even as we appreciate the lower number of homicides in our community, we know that even one murder is too many. We will continue to work with our residents and partner law enforcement agencies to reduce the number of these crimes.

    Chief Chris Magnus, Richmond PD

    • Kim Alexander

      Chief Magnus,

      As a Richmond native, this is very good news. The down side to this happy article is there are hunderds of families- including myself- that although their loved one was not killed, they were shot and seriously injured, and the cases remain unsolved. It is my hope and prayer that The City of Richmond Police Dept. will place a priority on solving ALL cold cases whether the victim died or not.

  2. tizzle404

    My brother was murdered on labor day of last year. Please solve this case!

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