RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — After another violent weekend in Richmond, Mayor Levar Stoney says it’s time to make a change to the city’s public housing programs.
Recently, a majority of the city’s violence has taken place in the public housing neighborhoods of Creighton, Gilpin, Mosby and Whitcomb courts.
“There are good people in those communities, but there is a population, ladies and gentlemen, that wreak havoc, that instill fear,” Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham said. “I call them neighborhood terrorists, because that’s what they are.”
During a Tuesday morning press conference, Durham said the only short-term solution they have for combating violence is to increase patrols in the city’s most violent neighborhoods and to have a watch list for wanted criminals in those areas.
“We are doing the very best we can, but that is a band-aid short term approach to the underlying systemic issues in our communities,” Durham said. “We cannot do it alone.”
Meanwhile, Mayor Stoney is calling for an overhaul of the public housing program.
“I need the community’s help, my officers need the community’s help. We all need the community’s help.” — RPD Chief Alfred Durham
“We need to capture our current growth and leverage it for those who have not benefited from our recent successes,” Stoney said.
Mayor Stoney said he is partnering with RRHA and other agencies to plan a housing summit in the end of October.
“It’s time for us to really provide choices for our residents to live in better neighborhood s and mixed income communities,” CEO of RRHA T.K. Somanath. “All of that will take a lot of resources.”
In addition to police increasing patrols, RRHA is installing new lights and cameras in the violence-ridden neighborhoods.
On October 1, they will also begin a new car registration and decal program that aims to prevent people who do not belong in those communities from staying there.
“We are asking for patience from the residents so we have a long term strategy,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Herring said.
Officials are not just pleading for patience, but also for help identifying those offenders breaking the law.
“This is what we are dealing with, so I need the community’s help,” Chief Durham said. “My officers need the community’s help. We all need the community’s help.”
Community activists call for action
At Tuesday’s press conference, community activists called out the mayor and the police chief for not having them at the table while looking for a solution to the problems in their own neighborhoods.
They said the city needs to do more to make residents part of the conversation.
“People outside the community, people in these building, in these offices, they think they are coming up with good stuff but they don’t see the effects of it,” community activist Omari Al-Qadaffi said.
Al-Qadaffi is not only a community activist, but he lives in the public housing communities the mayor is proposing to change. He said the idea of relocating residents may seem smart, but he claims there isn’t anywhere for them to go.
“There’s no more housing in Richmond,” Al-Qadaffi said. “VCU is taking up all the real estate. Real estate values are going up. So where is this affordable housing going to be?”
Lynetta Thompson, the former president of the local NAACP, said the city needs to look at how they can address the economic issues that face these communities.
“Show that you are really trying to develop the community through skill-based programming,” Thompson said. “They have no problem having social events.”
She also said relocation is not a solution.
“They should not have to leave their community to have better housing,” Thompson said. “They can have better housing in their community if the care and the investment was there.”
She said before the city keeps calling on residents for help, they need to earn their trust.
“People want to feel safe,” Thompson said. “If you don’t feel safe then you are not going to speak.”