Police chief: Social media largely to blame for increased crime in Richmond

Police chief: Social media largely to blame for increased crime in Richmond

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Violent crime in Richmond is down slightly from last year, but the overall crime rate is still higher than it was a decade ago - and the chief says social media is largely to blame.

Chief Alfred Durham says the top motives for gun violence and homicides are arguments, many of which start on social media.

"Folks just can't seem to settle disagreements without resorting to violence here in our city," said Durham. "Social media...especially our young people...is what precipitates a lot of this violence."

That violence grew in 2016 and 2017, after seven years of trending downward. Richmond saw 65 homicides last year, compared to 60 homicides the year before.

Overall, violent crime was down two percent in 2017. The chief says his officers are putting people behind bars.

"We're locking people up, but arrests are not the key. Arrests are not the answer," said Durham. "It's about building relationships, working with our partners, helping people who are coming back from being incarcerated. We have to rethink, renew our minds. It's an all-hands-on-deck approach."

Durham says police continue to work with local organizations to help de-escalate the violence. One successful program that launched this past summer is RVA League for Safer Streets. Basketball games keep young people off the streets.

"And now we're looking to get the league started back in March and carry it the whole year," said Durham.

The chief says putting more patrol officers in typically high-crime neighborhoods - like Gilpin and Mosby courts - has also worked, showing a drop in gun violence. The department also just graduated another 29 officers.

The chief reiterates his call for the community to come forward with more tips for officers.

"Folks in the neighborhood on their cell phones, they have the information readily available. But nobody wants to talk to us," said Durham. "If folks are not helping us, they're only hurting themselves."

The chief says his officers are also making weekly trips to visit kids in the juvenile justice system.

On Jan. 25, police released their 2017 crime report, saying there were 66 homicides that took place in the city. There were over 8,900 property crimes. Police also seized 137 firearms.

On Feb. 1, Richmond police released the weekly and year-to-date crime stats, which is something they are promising to release on a regular basis.

As of Jan. 28, there have been five homicides, three rapes, four business robberies, 33 individual robberies, and 44 aggravated assaults, totaling to 89 violent crimes in 2018.

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