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Some arrested through RPD operation targeting potential shooters have no criminal background

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Posted at 6:19 PM, Aug 08, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Police released new details about an operation that has led to the arrest of 177 people in the city, a majority who live in government housing, for being suspected of potentially committing a violent crime in the future.

During a briefing on crime statistics Monday, Chief Gerald Smith said Operation Red Ball, which launched in November 2021, has led to 188 felony charges, 141 misdemeanors, 80 warrants, and 276 guns seized. Some of those who were arrested faced multiple charges.

Smith described the operation as "evidence-based" in which officers target areas he said are at higher risk of violence. He said officers created a list of people who could possibly shoot other individuals by using confidential informants, community members who give RPD information, reviewing previous and current investigations, and taking note of people who have a history of gun violence.

"If they're out of jail, we are keeping our eye on them as well," Smith said. "You don't make that list willy-nilly. It takes a little bit to get on that list."

When asked to elaborate on how people on the list might end up arrested, Smith said he could not "get into the tactics of it."

Smith said investigators have reviewed data over the last five years to decide which neighborhoods should be targeted.

"We've located some areas that at 2% of the landmass, for the last five years, account for 26% of the violent crime here in Richmond," he said.

A majority of suspects arrested through Red Ball are connected to government housing. 14% of them are associated with Mosby, 13% Hillside, 9% Uptown, and 5% Belt Atlantic.

43% of the arrests are not connected to public housing communities.

The data sparked concerns from the Virginia Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union about targeting and racial profiling. The organization said predictive policing models should be used sparingly and vetted thoroughly for bias.

“Studies have shown that police are more likely to interact with members of poor communities or communities of color, and the frequency of those interactions often is what drives the criminal histories that are put into these algorithms or these other predictive policing programs," said Matt Callahan with the ACLU.

He added, "Police should be pursuing leads on an individualized basis and pursuing crime throughout the community, rather than targeting specific communities that may not have the political power to push back on the police response or the over-policing."

Smith responded to those concerns Monday when asked by CBS 6.

"It's not about race. We address criminal behavior, and when we go back and we look at the evidence and we look at the data... the violent crime over the five past years has been in some of those housing projects," Smith said. "And that is where we are concentrating, and the community pop-ups when we pop-up-- we actually talk to people and we're talking to them that we are welcome there. They want us to come in and make a difference."

Not everyone arrested through the operation had a criminal background, according to Smith.

"There have been those who don't have a criminal background," he said when asked by CBS 6. "For the most part, most of them have some kind of contact with the criminal justice system at one point."

Smith also gave a breakdown of the charges arrestees face. Concealed weapon crimes accounted for a majority of the charges at 87. The other top charges included narcotics charges, firearm by a felon, possession of a firearm with narcotics, and possession of a firearm by a juvenile.

Some arrested through RPD operation targeting potential shooters have no criminal background

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