'Respect Richmond' aims to curb gun violence in the city

'Respect Richmond' aims to curb gun violence in the city

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond is taking the fight against violence to your cell phone. The city teamed up with the Virginia Attorney General's office to launch a new campaign called Respect Richmond, which sends targeted messages to Richmonders through social media. Videos and ads aim to diffuse violence before it happens. Police say conflicts that lead to gun violence can often spur on social media.

"This campaign and project right here goes to that medium, where they are, right where they are… where we see some of these beefs and conflicts begin," said Mayor Levar Stoney, at the press conference announcing the effort Friday morning.

Stoney was joined by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham and Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Herring at the press conference Friday, to launch the initiative.

Richmond has experienced a recent uptick in gun violence. Shootings have risen 16 percent, compared to this time last year. The city partnered with the Attorney General's office and local marketing agency, Madison+Main, to spread the shockingly real messages.

One ad reads "This isn't how mom wants to remember you," while showing a picture of a corpse's feet.

"We have to break our old ways of thinking. We have to look for the new," said Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham, of the first-of-its-kind, social media crime-fighting effort, in the nation.

The ads can be targeted to an audience based on demographics, location, and trends in someone's digital footprint. For example, a video can play before a music download site or page that police say Richmonders use often. If a shooting breaks out, these messages can be pinpointed to a quarter mile surrounding that incident. Facebook and YouTube will be the apps used most in the campaign.

But will it work? Herring says a similar campaign was successful in the fight against human trafficking in Virginia.

A mother-of-two in Mosby Court says although she thinks the ads might be helpful in some cases. She believes more funding and resources dedicated to low-income areas would do better to curtain violence.

"It's going to take funding. It's going to take people willing to volunteer and come out in the community and help," said the woman, who asked not to be identified.

The Respect Richmond campaign will also be sending out ads through the radio, posters, and billboards.

FULL PRESS CONFERENCE:

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