Murder rate continues to drop in Richmond

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - 2011 is almost in the books and right now this year is poised to be one of the safest ever in Richmond.

37 people were murdered in the city limits this year. Last year that number was 41.

The murder rate has stayed in the thirties and forties the past few years, but just five years ago that number soared to 81. Go back to the 90's and nearly 200 people died in a year.

December has been a bloody month, but the numbers show Richmond is as safe as it's ever been.

John Murden runs the Church Hill People's News blog and keeps a close eye on the murder rates in Richmond.

"I grew up in Richmond always hearing about our murder rate," Murden said. "I grew up in the 80's and 90's back when it was terrible."

He's compiled murder rates going back to the Great Depression. The numbers show only one time since 1964 has the murder rate been lower than it has been so far in 2011.

He says the murder rate now is about what it was back in the 1930's, 40's and 50's.

"It became kind of comforting to see that now we're at a time that almost seems normal," he said.

If you talk to people that have lived here a long time, they'll tell you Richmond used to be infamous along with other cities like Gary, Indiana and New Orleans for being one of the most dangerous cities in the United States.

At its peak, 161 people were killed in 1994.

But 2011 is ending on a sour note. This December has been a violent month, capitalized by the Christmas Eve murders of Robin Clapp and Eddie Lee Bowmer.

"We had a terrible, terrible December," Murden said. "Everybody knows what happened and it leaves such a bad taste. It's terrible, but it's also a good year nonetheless."

One murder is still too many, but some take comfort knowing that number is going down - not up.

"It's a lot safer than it was," he said. "It's almost as safe as it's ever been in the city."

2008 is the safest year on record. There were only 32 murders recorded that year.

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