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‘Respect Richmond’ anti-violence campaign uses new, targeted platforms

RICHMOND, Va. –  A new anti-violence campaign has launched in Richmond. The Attorney General’s office is working with city officials in a campaign they called innovative, for its targeted marketing techniques.

“Respect Richmond,” uses strategic and provocative digital messaging to reach neighborhood where gun violence is higher. And the stats show that gun violence has increased – the number of people shot this year is up 16 percent, the police chief said.

Though Richmond has experienced a signifciant transformation over the past 30 years, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring pointed out that the renaissance hasn’t reached every neighborhood.

“We still have communities fighting poverty,” Herring said. “And the legacy of education, housing, and transportation policies have left certain communities behind.”

Herring also pointed out the big picture view of what he called “the lingering effects of gun violence.”

“The impact of gun violence cannot be contained to just the shooter and the victim,” he said. “It exposes our children to trauma at a young age which can make it harder for them to succeed in school. It causes neighbors to retreat into their houses, causing strain on the fabric of the community – making it harder for police to do their job.”

Many cities are experiencing a rise in gun violence, something officials contributed to concentrated poverty and access to illegal guns.Now leaders want to use the same platforms where they said violence sometimes begins and escalates, hoping to make a direct connection.

Police Chief Alfred Durham outlined the efforts already underway to target violent crime.

"We are working feverishly to continue to be innovative and be creative to create strategies to reduce crime," Durham said. "We want poeple to respect one another, their households, their communities and to respect Richmond."

Those who live in neighborhoods where gun violence is a reality say they are sick of the violence.

"I just had a cousin recently get shot,” said Fairfield resident Kita Patterson. “He survived, but he was shot.  My brother was shot.”

The images of the campaign are graphic to drive home the point.

“This is a tool in our toolbox to keep our city safe,” said Mayor Levar Stoney. “We need to do everything we can to keep our communities safe and free from violence.”

The social media ads can be targeted to specific parts of the city at specific times, within a quarter mile. The platforms include mobile, Facebook, Xbox and Playstation.

The campaign has critics who argue that jail time and not Facebook posts, prevent gun violence. Some harkened back to the days of Project Exile, which gave stiffer sentencing to criminals convicted of gun crimes.

"A marketing campaign is not going to stop murders, keep children out of gangs, or make our neighborhoods safer," said John Adams, Herring's opponent in November Attorney General race.

“Right now, we need all the help in as many ways as possible,” Patterson said. She said she is fine with ads on her Facebook feed, because she's tired of seeing a different kind of post.

“Rest in peace this person, this person is going through something,” she said.  “That's starting to get annoying because that seems like its the only thing popping up now.”

“A lot of people don’t watch TV, but they are on their phones,” she added.

The press conference was held at Peter Paul Development Center, who uses various after school programs to further their mission to break the violent cycle of poverty.