Spike in city homicides threatens recent trends

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A spike in Richmond's homicide count threatens to reverse years of declines.

As we near the halfway point of 2009, the number of killings in Richmond is almost as high as it was for all of 2008. But the department still enjoys what its chief calls high profile success.

It was a week of high profile crime in Richmond. Tuesday: a deadly shooting on Jeff. Davis Highway. Thursday: a deadly shooting on North Side's Bellevue Avenue. And Saturday: a third deadly shooting on Westover Hills Boulevard.

That brought the total number of homicides this year to 27. There were 32 in all of last year, when the numbers reached a 37-year low. In addition, violent crime has increased 5%, with overall crime up 6% compared to last year.

"Would I say go into a panic? Absolutely not. I think that this city is safe," said Richmond Police Chief Bryan Norwood.

Norwood believes the increase in crime is in line with national trends, due in part to the economy. What's different about Richmond - is that the city appeared to have an unusually successful 2008.

"I think that was a phenomenal year and under phenomenal circumstances as well. I think that, in terms of reaching back and trying to attain those numbers, we can get there. Whether we get there this year, or a couple of years from now, we can get back to that. I just have to be patient," Norwood said.

Norwood notes that officers are naming suspects quickly - and arrests are coming shortly thereafter. Several initiatives remain in place to keep numbers low.

"I think we're very confident about making sure that they work. And I think you'll see that come to fruition," he said.

In terms of success, business robberies are down 43% in 2009. Burglaries are down 14%.

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