Richmond Police Department announces banner year in crime reduction
on December 7, 2014
Crime fell across the board in Richmond thus far in 2014, suggesting another banner year for the city’s law enforcement, according to statistics released by the Richmond Police Department last week.
The report detailed the 11-month period between January 2014 to November 2014, and is a benchmark for determining both violent and nonviolent crime statistics within the city. Compared to 2013, violent crime in the city has fallen 13 percent, while property crime is down 16 percent, resulting in a total reduction of crime of 15 percent compared to last year.
Homicides, down 19 percent, also fell for a third consecutive year.
Theft rates were down across the board, with all-but auto burglary rising, albeit only slightly. Petty theft (down 12 percent), residential burglary (down 28 percent) and auto theft (down 21 percent) all dropped by double-digits. Auto theft has fallen almost 40 percent in the past two years.
Capt. Mark Gagan credited this year’s success to its proactive community policing.
“What I believe in my heart is that we have an above average involvement in the community,” he said.
Gagan noted that a burglary suspect was caught recently through help from a flurry of community tips. To the RPD, providing residents with key information on criminal activity is key.
“When people from a small city like Richmond know what is emerging as a crime trend,” he said, “it helps us warn other potential victims.”
This year, the success has not gone unnoticed. Not only has the police department received national attention for its progressive policing, but Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus was invited to Ferguson, Missouri to assist the Department of Justice in investigating the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer.
Gagan also credited the reduction in crime to community organizations who reach out to at-risk youth in Richmond.
“I think that we really do want to start acknowledging neighborhood groups in reducing the crime rate,” he said.
One of the most important of these groups is the Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS). Though officially unaffiliated with the Richmond Police Department, they are equally committed to reducing firearm possession and use by youth in Richmond. By providing one-on-one counseling to the youth, ONS targets crime at its source, often before it is even committed.
Devone Boggan, the director of ONS, took some credit for the reduction in gun violence, but he believes the consistent improvement is the result of positive actions from the city’s youth.
“Young men who are typically traditionally historically responsible for gun violence in this city are making better decisions about how they negotiate everyday conflicts that have traditionally lead to further gun violence,” he said.
ONS has since received national attention from major news outlets and much larger cities. Many police departments want to emulate the program in light of controversial officer-involved killings across the country.
For Boggan, direct involvement in the lives of potential criminals can make a significant difference, particularly in taking big steps towards education and employment.
“We’re not simply referring them to social service agencies, but walking through those doors with them,” he said.
The only crime experiencing a sharp spike was battery with injury, though crimes involving weapons have decreased sharply in the same period, with armed robbery falling 22 percent and assault with a firearm dropping 29 percent.
The department’s success in engaging within the community stands in stark contrast to the growing furor over officer involved shootings, which threatens to antagonize police forces in the communities they cover.
But the RPD doesn’t want to stop there. The department just announced the implementation of body cameras on every police officer, a move aiming to increase transparency in the event of conflict.
While the Obama administration recently committed to promoting body camera usage, the RPD had actually ordered the devices a year ago. Gagan believes that they are essential for reducing delinquency for both police officers and local residents.
“I believe that body cameras will really help us,” he said. “If someone is inclined to be heavy-handed or apathetic in their speech, I believe the presence of camera will push themselves to be more professional.
Body cameras will be implemented at the start of 2015.
In spite of the Gagan’s optimism, the police department still advised to be wary of property theft and burglary, particularly during the holiday season. Items stored in the back seats of cars are far easier to rob than those placed in the trunk.
Magnus also advised residents to keep their home in check. “[I]f you plan to be out of town over the holidays,” he stated in a press release, “consider notifying a neighbor you trust so they can help keep an eye on your home.”
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