Dear Council Members, City Manager, and Others:
As you likely know, we have recently experienced an increase in shootings and related violence in our community. I wanted to make you aware of how we are addressing these challenges and welcome any questions or feedback you might have.
First, a little background: Richmond has struggled for decades with gang violence that has ebbed and flowed over the years. We all understand the backdrop for gang activity. Unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse, family violence and neglect, unmet mental health needs, a failed prison system, and peer pressure are just a few of the contributing factors. No matter what the police do, these problems will continue the cycle of many young people becoming active in gangs—which should cause us all to recommit to addressing these underlying issues.
Over the past several years, the Richmond Police Department, working with other police agencies and a broad range of community partners, has become more and more effective addressing gang violence and driving down violent crime. We have done this by strategically focusing on the most active shooters, doing good neighborhood policing, participating in the Ceasefire program, and by building stronger relationships with community groups--including the faith community. Many of the most dangerous individuals involved in gun violence have been successfully arrested and prosecuted. A smaller, but significant number of these young men, have chosen alternatives to gang life.
There are many examples of how significantly violence has been reduced when even a small number of key gang members are taken off the streets. The plain reality, however, is that these individuals are rarely gone for very long. Almost always they are released after a few years—or in many cases after a few months—and they come home to the same neighborhoods where they’re from with few changes to their everyday lives.
The other reality is that even when gang leaders or “shot callers” are successfully prosecuted, there are many younger folks—some as young as 14 or 15—ready to take their place and become involved in committing serious acts of violence. As I mentioned before, the underlying conditions that lead to being part of a gang in the first place remain very present and challenging in our city.
So what are we doing right now? Simply put—everything we can with the resources we have. Specifically:
· Gathering as much information as we can about who’s doing what so we can target the right people for enforcement and intervention. We don’t want to take a “broad brush” or dragnet approach that unfairly treats or alienates entire neighborhoods or groups of people;
· Redirecting resources to “hot spots” where we can best predict additional violence will occur. This means teaming up officers whenever possible, utilizing CCTV and ShotSpotter technology to our greatest advantage, and deploying more officers when and where we need them to prevent shootings;
· Working as closely as possible with our D.A.’s Office, State Parole, County Probation, other police agencies in the area, and federal law enforcement agencies—such as the DEA and ATF to focus on key individuals believed to be the most active in committing gun violence;
· Conducting “call-ins” and home visits for both older and younger individuals involved in gang-related shootings as our part of the Ceasefire process;
· Utilizing our Regulatory Unit, Code Enforcement personnel, and beat officers to focus on “hang-out” locations for perpetrators (and in many cases, victims) of gang violence, such as certain liquor stores and other problem businesses;
· Aggressively enforcing our Daytime Curfew ordinance to get potential perpetrators and victims of gang violence off the streets during school hours;
· Working with the Richmond Housing Authority as well as the management of other multi-family housing complexes in Richmond to evict gang-involved individuals;
· Offering significant rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone who commits a homicide in Richmond;
· Working with the District Attorney’s Office to aggressively prosecute anyone who commits a gun-related crime (including the illegal possession of a firearm) in our community. (We contract with a D.A. specifically assigned to handle these types of crimes in Richmond who works out of our headquarters.)
Richmond has had three homicides this year (a fourth homicide took place in BART’s jurisdiction—on their property—and is under active investigation by BART PD with our assistance). While this rate of homicides is still well below past years, we are deeply concerned about each one of these deaths and we are committed to doing everything we can to stop further violence.
These police activities are not without risk. Earlier this afternoon, one of our officers investigating the homicide that took place in the morning was confronted by an individual with a gun. Our officer had to use his weapon to protect himself and was fortunate to avoid serious injury or death. Fortunately, the perpetrator and several of his associates were taken into custody.
Your police department is doing everything we can to prevent and respond to these crimes. We appreciate the community’s support and partnership as we address this problem.
Chief of Police