Police have program to deal with Richmond homeless

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email
Posted by Phil Riggan - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond Police are asking for help in solving the murder of a homeless man.

On Tuesday morning, a passerby discovered the body of 54-year-old Joseph McCray under the I-95 overpass at  Lombardy Avenue in Richmond's North Side.

The medical examiner has ruled he died of blunt force trauma. He was found in an area often populated by the homeless, near two schools.

The homeless have been congregating on and off for years under the I-95 bridge just off Lombardy Street. Richmond police say they've never received any complaints, but now this area is on their radar

An area usually populated by the homeless was deserted today, an obvious after-effect of a terrible crime. But police say homeless camps frequently move around. It's why they've established hope. Or the homeless outreach partnership enforcement.

"Unfortunately there's a stigma with homelessness that they're all crazy they're all stealing they're all committing crimes and that's untrue," said Sgt. Shane Wait of the Richmond Police Department.

Wait and his officers visit encampments in the city at least once a week, when they have the manpower or a lot of complaints about an area.

"We've sort of become experts in many different fields to try and help homeless individuals get engaged with services," Wait said.

On any given day there are more than 1,000 people in the Richmond area experiencing homelessness.

The area where McCray was murdered is state property with no trespassing signs posted. The land is directly between the Maggie Walker Governor's School and Virginia Union University.

"I've seen people hang out over here and in the library and cut near here and I've seen them in there and they leave and walk under the bridge but I don't bother them at all they ask for change I'll give it to them," said VUU student Reginald Watson.

Police say they haven't had one complaint in the last year about the Lombardy bridge area.

The hope program will now include this area in future patrols and the officers say there is a way you can help them with their mission.

"Don't give them $5 when they are standing on the corner. Give that $5 to a homeless agency so they can turn around and help individuals that are experts at it," Wait said.

If you have any information on the death of Joseph McCray give Richmond police a call at Crimestoppers. That number is 780-1000.

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