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Richmond leaders encourage citizens to safely lock up weapons

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Posted at 11:30 PM, May 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-12 06:45:49-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- City leaders held a meeting on Wednesday night on the city's Northside to discuss how to tackle the growing problem of gun violence.

During that meeting, Richmond Police made a plea to the public to stop letting criminals get access to their guns.

In 2022 alone, more than 180 illegal guns have been removed from the streets.

"The number one concern through my office through complaints or emails is public safety," councilwoman Ann Francis Lambert said.

Lambert called the meeting to give her constituents a voice and access to Richmond leaders. Several of those in attendance were troubled after hearing that the Richmond Police Department has 140 officer vacancies.

"People like me need you," one attendee said. "I love and support you 100 percent!"

RPD Chief Gerald Smith said he hoped that support would translate into community involvement. He also took time to address the city's most recent act of violence, in which a man identified as Jonathan Wilson allegedly fired at three RPD officers.

Wilson was also wanted for allegedly beating and robbery of a woman at a Southside Plaza ATM.

"The gun that was used against the officers, and thank God they weren't hurt, was actually stolen from a car," Smith said.

"You can't use your vehicle as a lockbox," Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said. "You need to do it in your home in a safe manner."

While Richmond's homicide numbers are improving, with a 17% decrease from this time last year, violence involving guns is up. There have been 76 shootings in Richmond in 2022.

The use of knives in seven of the 22 killings was another thing that was telling to Chief Smith.

"That's incredible and part of the [lack of] coping skills," Smith said. "It's not pre-meditated. It's out of anger. They grab whatever they can and that's what they use."

The chief hopes more people will use conflict resolution skills before resorting to a gun and hopes that people will listen instead of being locked up.

"Crime, particularly gun violence, seems to spike during the summer months, so we are going to throw the whole kitchen sink at this," Stoney said. "Tough on crime, tough on root causes of crime. Talk about a human services approach, working with non-profits and also more activities for our youth so we can solve conflicts before a gun is used in a crime."

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