‘Like everybody else, we’re frustrated’: Community activist looks for ways to reduce violence

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 6:52 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 3, 2021 at 8:14 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - As police officers responded to several more deadly shootings in Richmond this week, a community activist is looking for proactive solutions to stop the violence.

One of those shootings happened at the Belt Atlantic Apartments early Tuesday morning, where a man was found dead with a gunshot wound in the parking lot of the complex.

The next day, the Richmond Police Department announced four teens were arrested in connection to the deadly shooting.

On Friday, a spokesperson for the Richmond Police Department said 77 homicides have happened in the city this year. In 2019, police said there were 61 homicides. This total increased to 66 in 2020.

“Like everybody else, we’re frustrated,” said Cruz Sherman, founder of Virginians in Action. “We’re here to support the community.”

Sherman started his organization after Sharnez Hill and her newborn, Neziah, were shot and killed at the Belt Atlantic Apartments in April.

“I felt like, okay, we haven’t had any incidents over there. We’re making some progress,” he said. “For this to happen, it felt like it was a setback.”

On Wednesday, members of Sherman’s group checked in with residents of the Belt Atlantic community.

“They’re upset, frustrated and many wish they had some other places to move to,” Sherman said.

Sherman believes one of the ways to stop the violence is by connecting with children.

“Our kids are becoming younger shooters,” he said. “If you don’t connect with them, what we’re doing is going to be in vain because, again, this is a different generation that we’re dealing with. They’re unconventional, so we have to do some unconventional things.”

The work isn’t only being done within community groups but also the Belt Atlantic Apartment Complex.

“It’s shocking and very sad to have this type of activity, not just in our community, but in general,” said Tameka Webb, an asset manager for Community Preservation Partners. “No lives should be lost.”

Webb said Community Preservation Partners is a part-owner of the Belt Atlantic Apartments.

Following Tuesday’s shooting, Webb said some repairs will be done to their front gate.

“Unfortunately, our gates have been hit a number of times and that gate is custom, so it takes a while for the new gate to be created. Because of COVID, things take a little longer,” Webb said. “The gate is scheduled to be fixed again on Dec. 13, and we will have a security guard at the gate checking IDs.”

Webb said this would be added to their existing security measures.

“We have over 80 cameras in the community and lights throughout,” she said.

Sherman said several community groups would be at the Belt Atlantic Apartments on Saturday morning to support residents following Tuesday’s shooting.

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