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Why didn't Richmond alert neighbors about an escaped inmate? Richmond Police explain.

Posted at 5:12 PM, Aug 18, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Police did not send an alert to city residents who live near St. Mary's Hospital after an inmate escaped from the hospital on Saturday morning because other "lead" agencies had already dispersed information, according to Richmond Police spokeswoman Tracy Walker.

St. Mary's Hospital is located on the Henrico County-City of Richmond line, and so even though the hospital is located in Henrico, people who live in the area on the city side told CBS 6 they would have liked to receive a notification about the escape.

In fact, the inmate, Naseem Roulack, broke into and stole from a man's home in the city on Wythe Street after the escape, police said.

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Walker said Richmond Police learned about the escape at 6:55 a.m., which was one hour after the Virginia Department of Corrections said the inmate left the hospital.

She said the city does have a Code Red alert system for reverse 911 calls for public safety situations, however, the system was not activated in this case due to what she called the "wide dispersal of information to the public by the lead agencies."

Walker said those lead agencies were: Virginia State Police, Henrico County Police, and the Virginia DOC.

A quick look at their communications to the public shows the following:

  • Henrico County sent out a reverse 911 alert to some residents at 8:37 a.m., which was nearly three hours after the escape.
  • The Virginia DOC sent out a press release to the media at 9:24 a.m.
  • Virginia State Police sent out a press release to the media at 11:41 a.m.

We should note that a press release to the media is not the same as an emergency alert.
The former relies on residents possibly seeing information through a news source, whereas a reverse 811 alert directly communicates information to a resident's home.

Walker added that if the lead agencies had needed Richmond's assistance in getting out the message about the escape, they would have done so.

Here is the full statement sent to CBS 6 by Tracy Walker with Richmond Police and Petula Burks, who handles media relations for the entire City of Richmond:

The Richmond Police Department was notified by the Department of Emergency Communications Preparedness and Response which handles regional agency communications, at 6:55 a.m. on Saturday regarding the individual who escaped from the facility in Henrico County. At that time, a Be On the Look Out (BOLO) was broadcast across all police radios. 

The Virginia State Police, Henrico County Police, and the Virginia Department of Corrections were the lead agencies for the incident.

They communicated with the public via broadcast news channels and other platforms, including social media channels. 

The City of Richmond has CodeRED Public Alert System for reverse 911 calls for acute public safety situations. The alert system was not activated as a result of this incident due to the wide dispersal of information to the public by the lead agencies. 

Consistent with RPD’s protocol, the lead agencies utilized multiple channels to inform the public, reaching broadcast news channels as mass communication. Also compatible with RPD protocol, the Department stands ready to assist; if they had needed our assistance in amplifying the message at the time, we would have done so.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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