Census worker robbed on the job

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A Richmond man is accused of robbing a census worker who was knocking on doors in Fairfield Court. Demone Bankston allegedly robbed the man of his personal belongings; no census materials were taken.

Census workers typically go door to door by themselves or with another person. After this weekend's robbery, those working in high crime areas will most likely go out in groups. The U.S. Census Bureau is hoping there's safety in numbers.

Imagine you have to knock on a stranger's door in a random Richmond neighborhood. You're trying to do good, attempting to make sure everyone is counted in the 2010 census. You have to visit all kinds of places including mansions and high crime areas.

According to the Census Bureau, Saturday's incident is the first robbery of a census taker in the Commonwealth since they started going door to door May 1.

"Of course we were very concerned because the safety of our workers, as well as the safety of the public is our top priority," said Media Relations Specialist Tammie McGee.

Workers spend a significant portion of their training on safety. They're given common sense tips like don't carry any valuables with you.

Saturday, those measures weren't enough to keep one of the 780 Richmond census employees safe in Fairfield Court.

It even took NBC12 almost an hour to get anyone to talk to us and when we finally did, those people didn't want to show their faces on camera. They said, living here, it's best to keep to yourself.

They told us they would not take jobs walking door to door in their community.

"You got a lot of different people from different communities living together, learning how to get along and live together, so knocking on their doors you don't know what kind of mood or what's going on in their life," said one resident who did not want to give her name.

"I think it would be scary," said another resident. "I mean you fear the unknown, always."

All local census takers are from the Richmond area. The bureau tries to place people where they have some sense of familiarity. Those workers have also been told to leave an area immediately if they feel threatened. The crew leader can then add more people to the group.

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