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Incoming AG: Bringing Project Exile back will stop gun violence in Richmond

Incoming AG: Bringing Project Exile back will stop gun violence in Richmond
Posted at 10:52 PM, Nov 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-30 22:52:08-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- 24 years after it first began, a federal crime-fighting tactic called "Project Exile" could be on its way back to Virginia courts.

The Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares says he wants something like it to fight surging violent crime and opponents say they'd like to meet with him at the table to make sure the program is fair.

In the mid to late '90s, Richmond was a dangerous spot in the south, with the most murders per capita, averaging more than 100 homicides per year.

"Our murder rate is the highest it's been in two decades and I’m old enough to remember Richmond as the murder capital of America and we can't go back there," said Miyares.

The capital city has endured 76 homicides so far in 2021, with more than 10 cases still undesignated.

Miyares says his plans on fighting crime include breathing life into Project Exile, where the state teams up with the federal government to prosecute people with illegal guns, shipping those convicted out of state to federal prisons across the country for a minimum of five years.

"My plan is to reimplement and bring that back because if you're trying to use a gun in commission of a felony, you are making our communities less safe,” Miyares said. “After the Richmond riots last year, I had a small business owner tell me you can wash away vandalism, but you can't wash away fear. They didn't feel protected."

But some say any program needs to be carefully analyzed.

"We need to be careful about Project Exile because when it comes to our community, the brown community, you need to talk about how many were institutionalized compared to whites,” said J.J. Minor, the president of the NAACP’s Richmond chapter. “Not only that, there are other avenues to explore before we say Exile is the answer. Yes, we want guns off the streets, yes, we want safer communities, however, I do think there are things we can explore to decrease crime and try to end the violence."

Still, Minor said he was interested in anything that could provide a solution.

"I’m ready to sit and talk with him,” said Minor. “Maybe he's talking about a portion of it. I’d like to find out."

Both men agree the violence needs to come to a quick stop, but how to get there is the question.

Miyares say he will tackle the issue right out of the gate.

"Particularly the violent criminals using guns,” Miyares said. ”Those are the ones that should feel fear, not private citizens. It's going to be a real shift on day one in the AG's office. I look forward to working with the feds to get violent criminals off the streets so our communities aren't living in fear.”