New VCU Police chief gives first TV interview to NBC12

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Virginia Commonwealth University's new police chief talked with us about his policing philosophies and what he brings to the department. It was his first television interview since starting the job two weeks ago.

For the last six years, we've talked to John Venuti as the man behind most of the Richmond Police Department's homicide investigations. He brings 30 years of experience to his new executive challenge as the head of the VCU Police Department.

Walking around campus, we heard the same sentiments over and over again. Students told us they feel safe during the day, but not as much at night.

After several of her friends were robbed at gunpoint, senior Laura Peters decided driving, instead of walking, to her night classes is a better decision.

"I only live a couple blocks away from the buildings I actually take classes in. It seems kind of ridiculous for me to do that," Peters said. "If I'm not feeling safe on a campus that I'm going to school, it doesn't seem right."

Saturday night, Richmond Police responded to 17 West Main Street, for reports of random gunfire. They found an 18-year old who had been grazed by a bullet. Police have not said this has anything to do with students, but it is just a couple blocks from VCU campus.

"It scares me, but at the same time it kind of goes with the territory," said Peters.

That's part of the challenge of going to school in an urban setting. Chief John Venuti said knowing those concerns is half the battle. He wants an open dialogue and told us he'll bring the philosophy of community policing used at the Richmond Police Department to the college campus. There, 82 officers keep watch over a population of 50,000.

"Campus safety is everyone's responsibility," said Venuti. "Every single person that works here, learns here, comes here has the responsibility to make this the safest environment possible."

He plans to enhance relationships with the city, Richmond Police and the media. He wants to make sure everyone knows VCU Police will come after any criminal preying on the college campus.

Venuti said it is tough to outline specific changes so early on in his time at the university, but he is examining the department from top to bottom while he still has what he calls an outside, objective perspective.

Click on the video on the right to see VCU Police Chief Venuti's full interview.

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