RPD’s Operation Safe Summer shows decrease in shootings, violent crimes this year

Police Chief Rick Edwards showed this summer, there was a 30% decrease in the number of people shot, in comparison to last summer.
Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 6:39 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) -Data from the Richmond Police Department shows Operation Safe Summer successfully fulfilled its purpose.

The initiative aimed to decrease crime in the city in what can be seen as its more violent season. The department held a crime briefing on Wednesday, Sept. 20, where Police Chief Rick Edwards showed a 30% decrease in the number of people shot this summer compared to last summer.

Overall, violent crime is down, too.

“Nobody would assume that because they don’t feel it,” Edwards said. “When you when you view it on social media, it’s just feels like it’s everywhere. But the hard data, I think, tells the tale when it comes to things like this.”

Operation Safe Summer ran from June 10 to Sept. 8. This time around, RPD saw violent crime at its lowest in that period in seven years. There were 286 counts this year, compared to a high of 343 in 2019.

The project included a gun buyback, which Edwards says collected 250 guns. There were also community events like neighborhood walks with police and friendly gatherings or ‘pop-ups.’ RPD also handed out gun safes and steering wheel locks to prevent crimes in the city.

“Here’s some of just the sheer numbers: 214 felony arrests, 137 misdemeanor arrests, 278 warrants served,” Edwards said.

As soon as the program ended, the city saw five homicides in just five days. Edwards signals that is coincidental and says none of those deaths are related.

“We can’t just jump every time there’s a specific spike,” he said. “Otherwise, we’d be chasing our tails everywhere. That’s why, you know, I’ve spoken about the micro hotspots in our city, breaking it down, figuring out where historically our violent crime tends to take place and putting resources there.”

Only some of those numbers are reflected in the quarterly update Edwards presented at the briefing. This quarter’s numbers show murder is up compared to this time last year, in addition to rape and commercial robbery also on the rise.

Rape had the most significant increase, jumping 27%. Even with those statistics, overall violent crime is down in the city, compared to this time last year, by 7%. Aggravated assault is down 14%, and individual robbery is down 1%.

When it comes to property crime, Edwards calls it a mixed bag, as most areas look much better than years past. Compared to last year, arson is down 46%, burglaries are down 20%, and theft of motor vehicle parts is down 53%. Edwards says the significant decrease in theft of motor vehicle parts can be due to legislation changes making it tougher to steal catalytic converters, a big issue for Richmond in the past.

Property crime is up 8% this time last year because shoplifting and theft of motor vehicles are both way up. Shoplifting went up 47% compared to the previous year, which Edwards says is seen a lot in liquor stores in the city.

Motor vehicle theft is up 63%, which RPD tried to deter by giving out steering wheel locks. Major crime combines property and violent crimes, and it is up 6% in the city in comparison to this time last year. Edwards says the shoplifting and car theft numbers are skewing that range.

”Those two crimes alone, if we took out, if we were just on the pace we were in shoplifting last year, at this time, and on pace where we were with motor vehicle thefts, we had an overall reduction in 5% in all of our crime, but now you see a 6%,” Edwards said. “Overall, major crime is driven by those t two crimes. Specifically, that’s the difference this year.”

Edwards says the department is still down officers and struggling to recruit and retain. He previously said solving that issue was one of his priorities as chief. He says RPD is trying to expand some of its initiatives from this summer to the rest of the year to keep crime down.