Residents say police are making progress in Northern Barton Heights

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Residents who spoke with Richmond's Police Chief Bryan Norwood said officers are gaining ground in the battle against crime in Northern Barton Heights. Chief Norwood and his command staff did a neighborhood walk-through in the area that includes several streets off Brookland Park Boulevard near Battery Park on the city's north side.

Police heard concerns about some drug activity, assaults, loitering and car thefts. Residents who've lived in the area for years, however, said it has changed drastically for the better.

Sofiene Andouni knows firsthand there's crime in Northern Barton Heights. Last year, a masked gunman held up his pizza place on Brookland Park Boulevard.

"The door was open," he said. "It was quiet, no cars passing by or anything and he robbed us. He robbed us and took some money."

Since then they've installed a security system and cameras. Andouni said he also talked with police and they increased their patrols.

For the most part, the crime statistics show improvement. From the beginning of the year until Monday, the numbers of vice activity, assaults, robberies and sex offenses have gone down in comparison to the same time period last year. The biggest decrease comes in the drug and prostitution category. There were 29 incidents in the first four months of 2009 compared to eleven so far this year.

Jaron Harwell's family has lived in the area since 1977. He said the drug activity has calmed down as homes get revitalized and new neighbors move in. But police are still seeing slight increases in burglaries and vehicle thefts.

Harwell thinks more walk-throughs and patrols could help continue to make his neighborhood safer.

"Maybe if they show their faces more often, a little more foot patrol," he suggested. "It's real good to see some of the white shirts out here in the neighborhood. A uniform deters people from doing a lot of things."

The last homicide in the area was back in the end of September. Police said Monday night they're still working on that case. The sector lieutenant reminded residents if they have any concerns to call the Fourth Precinct. He wants his officers to determine what is suspicious and what is not.

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