RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Can faith fight crime? Richmond's police chief thinks so. Bryan Norwood believes the church can play a vital role in stopping the cycle of violence in the city's public housing projects. His new and unconventional program takes faith leaders into areas of the city most of us never visit.
Richmond's courts...not the place you find justice. This judge and jury can be harsh. Cut off from downtown by the highway, this isn't a place most Richmonders come to visit. Illiteracy and poverty go hand in hand. The average income here- just $9,000 a year.
Churches of all faiths have come knocking side by side with officers in Mosby, trying to find out what they can do to change lives.
Bryan Norwood is Richmond's first police chief to gather faith leaders, from all religions and his officers - taking them and their message into the projects.
"It makes a difference to the community when people come out and show them exactly that they care. When you knock on a door and you say 'hello, what can we do for you? How can we help you?' It makes a difference," said Norwood.
Crime in Mosby is on the decline…down 24%. Chief Norwood believes movements like this may help to keep it that way.
"The entire perception of the city is that Mosby is bad. But Mosby is not bad," said Pastor Alex Boyd. "I see people, I see hope, I see people that's not unlike me."
Pastor Alex Boyd grew up in Gilpin.
"Of course, you're living in the projects and it's not Windsor Farms, but we didn't know that. I didn't realize we were poor until I grew up and left that community," he said.
He joined the army at 17. A year later in the jungles of Vietnam he became a drug addict.
"I'm a walking witness. I know! Nobody have to tell me," Boyd said. "It's Jesus Christ that has made the difference."
Alex Boyd is now a pastor of his own church. He believes these walkthroughs and faith in God are building a bridge.
"You can't arrest yourself out of this thing. You can't arrest everybody in this community. Look at the children that run around. Children are innocent. Children see the police officers and they are fascinated by them. They're not afraid of them. They have to be taught to fear the police officers," said Boyd.
There are more than 4,000 children living in the city's East End. Mosby is where Lewis Robinson got his start.
"This is home. This will always be home," he said.
He lived in a 3 bedroom unit with 8 family members.
"When you maybe see people, see others who started in the same predicament that you started and you see now where God has taken them, you say oh man! There's hope for me," Robinson explained.
He's now a deacon at his church and comes back to Mosby with a message.
"It can happen for you. You just have to have faith. Hard work! Hard work! It won't just be given to you," he said.
Etta Virginia Butler knows hard work. She's a social worker, college professor and outreach minister.
"People can live in the courts and they are rich. They are rich in faith. They're rich in love," she said.
Butler believes through faith in God, she, the police and the other faith leaders can inspire people.
"Those families, those individuals, those children to have hope, that they too one day can overcome," Etta said.
"I see lawyers, doctors. I see ministers, pastors. I just see possibilities," Robinson added.
The chief has taken his faith walk to Hillside and Mosby Courts. The department is already planning more of these walkthroughs like this for other areas of the city.