RICHMOND, Va. — The city of Richmond is approaching the most homicides recorded by police since 2004, a total marked by the fact that both the victims and suspects have been getting younger and younger, authorities said.
The Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office says there have been 90 homicides in 2021, the most of any year since there were 95 slayings in 2004, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. Meanwhile, 13 people have been killed in Richmond so far in December, including eight people slain in an eight-day period.
Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Learned Barry noted that the city has seen 24 more homicides this year than in 2020, and he drew a comparison to a 10-year stretch spanning the 1980s and 1990s when Richmond had 100 or more murders every year.
“We have a problem again,” said Barry, a veteran homicide prosecutor. “That becomes the No. 1 problem for the city.”
In the past three years, at least 98 children under age 18 have been shot in the city. Of those, 14 died. At least nine people under age 18 have been charged in homicide cases this year, compared to just five for 2019 and 2020, according to police statistics.
“We’ve got to stop this because our children are dying,” said Tracey Scott, one of many community advocates to speak up during a recent meeting aimed at stemming the city’s gun violence.
Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith and other city officials, along with community advocates, believe mentoring of young people is a crucial piece of the crime-prevention puzzle. Grassroots groups that perform those services are hoping to receive some of the $1.5 million in federal funding that the city has earmarked for violence prevention. A steering committee is being formed to decide how to distribute the funds.
“We need everyone to come together,” said Smith, who became the city’s police chief in July 2020. “Our youths are the ones committing the majority of the homicides and shootings. Our youth are the ones being victimized as a result of this gun violence. It’s our youth that we have to talk to.”
Law enforcement officials and community leaders all agree that much of the violence stems from disagreements on social media, and Smith believes the isolation of the pandemic has only increased people’s dependence on those platforms, both in Richmond and nationwide.
“A lot of these conflicts are pushed by social media,” Smith said. “It’s not gasoline onto the fire; it’s like dynamite onto the fire. We can trace back the roots of some of these killings to that.”
Besides the ages of those involved in the homicides, other trends show more drive-by shootings carried out by groups of young people, an increased use of assault-style rifles, and more cases of gunmen indiscriminately spraying bullets into crowds.
For example, city prosecutors have 13 defendants facing trial who represent three carloads of suspects who carried out three killings, Barry said.
“We’re seeing an increased number of juvenile and teenage offenders,” Richmond prosecutor Brooke Pettit said. “The number is certainly up of these incidents where we’re having multiple offenders riding in a car somewhere together to commit a crime. Instead of having one trial per killing, we’re having three or four because they’re working in groups.”
The total number of killings this year in Richmond is 99, but that includes cases that the authorities don’t count as murders, like self-defense deaths and accidental shootings.
🔎 WTVR.COM IN-DEPTH: Tracking Central Virginia Homicide Stats
Richmond Police have reported 90 homicides in the city thru Dec. 29, 2021.
Since 2000, Richmond has averaged approximately 60 homicides a year.
Between 2002-2005, more than 80 people a year were killed in crimes classified as homicides in the city. Over the last two years, more than 60 people were killed in crimes classified as homicides, according to Richmond Crime statistics.
In 1994, 160 people were killed in the City of Richmond. In 1997, the city's homicide number was 140.
|2022||44 (as of Oct. 9, 2022)|
|2021||25 homicides (as of Dec. 29, 2021)|
|2022||12 (as of Sept. 30, 2022)|