RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond police chief Alfred Durham took a stern and urgent tone while addressing the city’s spike in crime and the police department’s limited resources.
During a town hall meeting Tuesday night at Southside Plaza Community Center, Chief Durham insisted that crime in the city is not out of control, but told the crowd his department is overworked, understaffed and struggling to retain officers.
“My officers- I’m tired of us getting beat up, saying we’re not doing enough,” the chief told the filled-to-capacity room, calling on the crowd, and their neighbors for help.
“The success or failure of your police department is not what we’re doing, it’s what the bad people are doing,” Durham said. He urged neighbors to report suspicious activity when they see it, especially illegal guns.
Between January 1 and April 16, there have been 20 homicides in Richmond, up 11 percent from the same period in 2016. There have been 141 aggravated assaults, 10 above the same period in 2016. 54 people have been injured from being shot, compared to 41 shooting victims for the same 2016 timeline.
Residential and commercial robberies are also up from last year, along with a steep rise in carjacking incidents. Durham said the majority of the crimes are being reported and investigated in Richmond’s poverty-stricken East End, as well as the city’s north side and south side.
In total, Chief Durham told residents there have been 482 more crimes by this point in the year than for the same period in 2016.
“I’m playing catch-up,” he said. “That’s what we’re doing. We’re playing catch-up.”
That game of catch-up, the chief said, is making it difficult for Richmond Police Department to become fully staffed. Chief Durham told the crowd the department currently has 719 officers on payroll, with 31 of them unavailable because of temporary leave and injuries.
Officers are leaving RPD for better paying sworn positions in neighboring counties, forcing those remaining to work overtime and leaving them burned out. Officers start at a $41,000 salary in the department, the lowest starting salary for officers in the region.
On Monday, city council proposed changes to the mayor’s budget, including salary increases for police. In the meantime, concerned residents like Ramon Amaya and his son Angel, said they are eager to learn what they can do as citizens.
“We can help police to stop the crimes and many bad things when they happen,” Amaya said. “We need to create the best relationship with the police department.”
There will be three additional town hall meetings:
- Fourth Precinct – 6 – 8 p.m., Wednesday, April 19
Richmond Police Training Academy, 1202 W. Graham Road
- Third Precinct – 6 – 8 p.m., Tuesday, April 25
First Baptist Church, 2709 Monument Ave.
- First Precinct – 6 – 8 p.m., Thursday, April 27
St. John’s Church, 2401 E. Broad St.