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Richmond is offering so many free activities to keep kids busy and safe this summer

Posted at 5:59 PM, May 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-14 17:59:33-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- An early roll out an initiative to reduce community violence during the summer months — when school is out and more young people have free time — has produced positive results so far, according to Richmond's Police Chief. He and other city leaders said keeping summers safe and fun must be a holistic approach that provides spaces for kids to play, learn, and grow personally.

City leaders rolled out the summer programs available to young people and families across the city during an event Tuesday morning in east Richmond. Parks and Rec, local non-profits, and RPS are offering a litany of camps, events, and programs to give young people options during the summer.

"Cultivating enriching experiences and safe spaces for our youth to connect during the summer is critical," said Traci Deshazer, DCAO for Human Services in Richmond.

“We’re working hard to ensure our kids have access to high quality, enriching activities, so they can continue to learn and grow, have access to nutritious meals, and stay safe," said Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.

At Tuesday's event, Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards provided an update to Operation Safe Summer, which RPD and their partners rolled out on April 19th following several weeks of violence involving mostly young people. Following Easter weekend, there were 8 murders in the city and four of the victims were juveniles.

Edwards said RPD began targeted enforcement of 21 "hot spots" in the city, where data shows crime is historically more prevalent.

According to Edwards, there was a significant decrease in crime comparing the 24 days prior to April 19th to the 24 days since Operation Safe Summer began:

  • Murders down 700% (8 to 1)
  • Robberies down 108%
  • Aggravated assaults down 33%
  • Non-fatal shootings down 37% (19 to 12)
  • 34 illegal guns seized

"We’re going to throw the kitchen sink at violent crime in our city," Edwards said. "We have surged resources into those hot spots that I’ve talked about, 21 of the hottest spots in Richmond. . . in the prior 24 days, we had 1,377 of those hot spot visits, and in the current 24 days, we’v had 2,038. That’s a 48% increase. We are literally in these areas deterring crime.”'
Still, keeping both young people and the community safe during the summer is a holistic approach, leaders said. They are urging families to take advantage of free or low cost camps or events available all summer long.

The non-profit Next Up has multiple tools to help families located and sign up for programs, including a Richmond program locator and a citywide events calendar.

Richmond's Parks and Recreation Department also has links to camps and programs they are running this summer.

Richmond Schools will provide free breakfast and lunch to RPS families at 11 schools, Monday through Thursday from June 10th to the mid-July, according to Superintendent Jason Kamras.

  • Blackwell Preschool
  • Broad Rock Elementary
  • Henry Marsh Elementary
  • JB Fisher Elementary
  • Linwood Holton Elementary
  • Mary Munford Elementary
  • Miles Jones Elementary
  • Dogwood Middle
  • River City Middle
  • Huguenot High
  • Richmond Technical Center

Meals will also be provided at all Parks and Rec summer camps and most programs/events.
“If you want a child to thrive, they can’t be hungry this summer," Stoney said. “We must be honest with the fact that there are folks always living on the brink in many of our neighborhoods, and the most vulnerable of those are our children. We must do everything we can to fill the gaps."

Stoney said his office often hears complaints about there not being enough for young people to do in the summer, but the offerings they continue to put on provide plenty of options, Stoney said. He encouraged parents of young people to take some ownership in keeping their children safe.

“We need our parents to go that extra mile and meet us at the city halfway," Stoney said.

Friends Umai Giraldo and Troy Brown, who go to VCU now, were playing basketball at the courts outside Randolph Community Center, one of the centers where Richmond summer programs will take place. Both said summer programs will help young people stay out of trouble this summer.

“I think it builds community man. Just bring your friends outside and try to have a good time playing," Brown said.

"Getting these kids active, making sure they have somewhere to go if they don’t have the resources, then that’s a big deal," Giraldo said.

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