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Under Richmond Mayor Wilder, Virginia’s Capital Experiencing Lowest Crime Rate in 25 Years

From Office of the Press Secretary, Richmond, VA
October 8, 2007

How does a city that was once known as the “murder capital of the U.S.” repair its image? While violent crime is rising across the nation, Richmond (VA) is experiencing its lowest crime rate in 25 years.

New Mayor, Police Chief Reverse Negative City Image

For at least ten years, violent crime plagued the city of nearly 200,000. The situation grew worse each year, landing Richmond among the “Top 5” cities in the U.S. with the highest murder rates (per capita).

Then, something began to change. Violent crime went down 11 percent in 2005, 14 percent in 2006 and as of September 2007, violent crime had dropped another six percent.

At the same time, the city is receiving unprecedented help from the community. The city has partnered with citizens through community sector problem-solving meetings, and clearing a large percentage of homicides.

Richmond’s General District Court’s workload increased 25 percent from 2005 to 2006. A court official wrote the mayor: “While neither the judge nor I are looking for more work, I am sure that the taxpayers would be highly gratified to know that police productivity has significantly increased.”

Richmond’s New “Strong Mayor” Government

In 2004, former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder was elected mayor of Richmond. Wilder pursued change on several fronts – with public safety as a principal goal. One of Wilder’s first actions was to select Police Chief Rodney D. Monroe as Richmond’s new Police Chief.

Before coming to Richmond, Monroe served for three years as police chief in Macon (GA) and previously served 22 years in the Washington (DC) Metropolitan Police Department wi­th a focus on reducing gang-related activity by helping to steer DC’s young people away­ from a path of crime.

Monroe quickly made an impact. By the end of 2006, Richmond Police cleared 74 percent of all homicides (­the national homicide clearance average is only 62 percent). In 2006, 110 new Police officers were placed on the job, crime was cut across the board by 22 percent, and the city’s conviction rate soared.

“When it comes to making our streets safe, reinvigorating our Police force, and gaining ever-greater confidence and support within our community, our current statistics clearly show that Police Chief Rodney Monroe is making all the difference,” said the mayor.

Returning to Traditional Police Beat

Within months of coming to Richmond, Monroe promptly reorganized Richmond Police beats into 12 geographic or “community sectors,” where in addition to vehicle patrols, officers spend more time walking their beats. Before Monroe’s changes in 2005, Police officers rotated across the city. Officers now become familiar with the people and unique situations in their neighborhoods, and conversely, citizens are getting to know their police officers.

Through September 2007, there have been 40 homicides in the city, compared with 63 at the same time last year. Police have made arrests in 28 of the cases. As of September 30, violent crime in the city was down six percent and overall crime was down 13 percent.

Community involvement and sector policing are major factors in the greatly improved public safety results in Richmond. “The most valuable partners we have are the citizens themselves,” said Monroe. “Citizens are coming forward like never before to help the Police Department make the city a safer place to live and work.”

Increasing Police Presence

When Monroe came to Richmond, the Police Department only had 15 take-home cruisers. Now, 40 additional Richmond Police officers have take-home vehicles thanks to Monroe. “Most people feel safer when they know there is a Police officer living in their neighborhood,” said the Chief.

Monroe is now initiating a Police Cadet Program for 17- and 18-year-olds interested in becoming future officers.

“During their time as a cadet, these men and women will gain invaluable experience toward becoming a Police officer,” said the Chief, himself a product of a cadet program in Washington (DC).

Using Technology to Fight Crime

The Richmond Police Department received the prestigious Gartner Business Intelligence Excellence Award in March 2007, for using cutting-edge technology to effectively fight crime. “Predictive analysis” technology determines when certain crimes are more likely to occur. So far this year, this technology has led to the arrest of 16 fugitives and the confiscation of 18 firearms.

“Instead of just reacting, we can get out in front of crime by knowing where and when we need to put our soldiers on the street,” said the Chief. The system not only shows up-to-date crime statistics mapped out by area, it delivers alerts that Police officers can customize to their specific roles.

Gang Reduction and Intervention Program (GRIP)

Richmond Police is working to end gang activity by identifying at-risk youths and offering options to reduce the appeal of gang activity. Richmond is one of four pilot cities for the Gang Reduction and Intervention Program (GRIP). “GRIP gives us an opportunity to assist young people who want to pull away from gang activity,” said the Chief, referring to community resources such as after'school and job training programs.

Richmond’s dramatic crime reduction is also aided by the nationally recognized “Project Exile,” which calls for a mandatory five-year prison sentence for criminals who use a gun during a crime.