RICHMOND, Va. -- For the third time during his term as Richmond's law enforcement leader, Police Chief Alfred Durham updated the city on crime statistics so far in 2017 emphasizing his frustrations with the court system.
Durham reported that major crimes were up 7 percent from this time last year. There were 4,786 major crimes in 2017 compared to 4,483 in 2016. Violent crime was up 4 percent in the city. The crimes with the largest increases were auto thefts, which jumped up 26 percent, and homicides, which rose 8 percent. However, the number of rapes decreased 38 percent and the reported cases of arson were down 35 percent. Robberies also ticked down slightly compared to last year.The department has investigated 28 homicides that have occurred from January 1 to June 30, 2017, which was the same number of homicides totaled during that same time period in 2016.
Durham said 10 of the “violent killings” aren’t reflected in that total since three of the homicides are being investigated by Virginia State Police and the others are categorized as manslaughter, officer-involved, pending, and justified.
Often, some of the major crimes committed within city limits were by repeat offenders, according to Durham.
“We need to look at our criminal justice system," Durham said from behind a podium at Richmond Police Headquarters on West Grace Street, Friday morning. “It appears from our standpoint as a police department there’s the attitudes of the violent offenders in our city, that they don’t fear the criminal justice system."
Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Herring said the job of a judge and juror can be difficult especially when tasked with sentencing a criminal.
“Judging isn't easy just like deciding a case as a juror,” Herring said. “In Virginia, there are advisory sentencing guidelines that reflect an appropriate sentences and those jurisdictions are applied statewide.”
Richmond Police and the Commonwealth's Attorney are in discussions with state and federal partners about Project Exile, a program in which a suspect caught with an illegal gun received an automatic prison time of five years.
Critics said Project Exile disproportional targeted low income and minority communities.
“Project Exile never stopped. Both offices feel the need to re-invigorate it. You can expect an increase of cases adopted in late summer and early fall,” Herring explained.
Herring said he’s seeking additional funding to help spread the word of Project Exile like on billboards, busses and through the media like seen during Exile’s height in the 1990’s.
A majority of incidents in Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority area (RRHA) occurred in the Gilpin, Whitcomb, and Creighton neighborhoods, according to data.
Durham said Mayor Levar Stoney continues to seek additional funding of officer positions, which he said will get two walking beats funded in the Mosby Court neighborhood in the fall. Additional walking beats in public-housing neighborhoods Durham hoped to add in the future.
On a weekly basis, more than 740 officers are working on Richmond’s streets, with an additional 50 officers in training. But Durham said that leaves about 35 positions that are unavailable to work due to military, sick, or administrative leave.