Richmond's murder rate is down. But a rash of 'unsolvable' crimes concerns police.

Posted at 5:54 PM, Jan 25, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- Homicide numbers dropped by nearly 34% between 2021 and 2022 in the City of Richmond, according to crime statistics released Wednesday by the Richmond Police Department. While the murder rate declined, the number of nonfatal shootings increased by about five percent, acting Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards reported.

"Richmond has always had a homicide problem," Dr. William Pelfrey, a Virginia Commonwealth University researcher who specializes in policing and crime, said. "Sometimes it's a really serious problem. Sometimes it's a mild problem. The difference right now between a mild problem and a serious problem is a dozen, 15 people dying, being killed, and that would put Richmond right back up into that critical, dangerous left of high homicides."


Chief Edwards said in 2022, police seized 12 "glock switches," a piece of machinery that can be put on a firearm that could turn it from a semi-automatic to a fully automatic firearm.

"I fear we're going to seize more," Edwards said, noting these kinds of switches can be made in a 3D printer.

Edwards also highlighted a drastic rise in the firearms stolen from vehicles. He urged gun owners to secure guns safely in their homes rather than in their cars.

"In the vast majority of these cases, these cars are unlocked, left unsecured, sometimes the guns are even left in plain view," Edwards said. "So that number is totally unacceptable for us."

Richmond Police data showed 714 firearms taken out of cars. That number was up 73% from the 413 reportedly stolen in 2021.

Edwards said data tracking showed firearm theft from vehicles happening primarily in Richmond's Shockoe Bottom neighborhood.

"There's where our population growth is occurring in Richmond. We have more people coming from outside who maybe don't understand what they need to do to live in a city environment," Edwards said.

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Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards

Edwards said anecdotally, a majority of those stealing firearms out of vehicles tend to be "younger," but could not give a specific age range.

"There's many of those cases that go unsolved, so we don't actually know who's doing it, but what we generally see is groups of young folks, pulling on every door handle," Edwards said. "They're not willing to take that step, but many of them think nothing of pulling on a door handle and just walking."

Pelfrey said Richmond crime has followed national trends.

"There's a proliferation of young people pursuing and securing firearms that didn't exist even 10-20 years ago," Pelfrey said.

The likelihood of police solving these kinds of crimes is slim, both Pelfrey and Edwards said.

"It's a very hard crime to solve. Our officers could be sitting right next to someone, if we have one of our young folks walk up to a door, open it, take something out of it, a computer bag or whatever, and walk off, he could be committing a crime right in front of us, and we wouldn't know it because he didn't smash the window and nothing would look out of place," Edwards said.

"It's impossible. There's virtually no way to deal with it," Pelfrey said. "Property crime and particularly theft from auto is pervasive and the solution, right, that is what percentage of those crimes get solved, is abysmal, it's less than 10%."

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