Despite drop in crime numbers, some neighbors question safety

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - On Tuesday, the Richmond Police Department announced that 2011 was a historic year with the lowest number of violent crimes recorded.

In 2011 there was a five percent reduction from the 43 murders recorded in 2010, down to 38 murders for the year.

For perspective, in 1995 there were 120 murders in Richmond.

Mayor Dwight Jones said that violent crime and crime in general is down because residents and police are working together to combat the problems.

Despite the announced reduction in murders and other violent crimes in the city, some local neighbors have concerns about their safety.

Genevieve Barnes moved into her home in Richmond's Eastview neighborhood in 1959. She told CBS 6 News reporter Sandra Jones that she raised her children, grand children and great grandchildren in the area.

"We like it over here," Barnes said. "But there is a lot of crime, but it's not right in my area. It's like in the front of me or behind me."

Barnes thinks that while crime across the city may be down, it has spiked in the Eastview neighborhood.

Barnes said her home on Wood Street was the first home built in the neighborhood.

In the years since she moved into the neighborhood, public housing communities like Mosby Court and Whitcomb Court were built around it. She blamed a "new generation" of neighbors for the area's crime problems.

"I was out hanging out some clothes and I had to run in the house because bullets were coming from the Whitcomb Court area," she said.

Richmond Police Lt. Ronnie Armstead said problems for the Eastview community arise when certain people use the neighborhood as a cut through to get from one court to the other.

"When these people walk this particular area, they see that it is quiet," Lt. Armstead said. "So they figure they're going to cause a disturbance while passing through"

"That's the biggest challenge that neighborhood faces sitting in between two housing communities," said Lt. Armstead.

Lt. Armstead said he cannot prevent people from walking down the street, so he said his officers patrol the neighborhood in an attempt to discourage crime. He also credited neighbors for being active and calling police when they see suspicious people and situations.

Barnes can't imagine living anywhere else despite some of the challenges in her community.

"They're breaking out windows and so forth, breaking into people's homes,” said Ed Shearin, President of the Eastview Civic League Association.

Lt. Armstead said that officers are visible in the Eastview neighborhood by walking the beat, on bicycles and patrolling the area. They’re also making sure neighbors keep their porch-lights on at dark.

The neighborhood association is putting up flyers to encourage more residents to attend meetings and be more vigilant in the community.