City response to recent youth violence, 'Operation Safe Summer' to begin early in Richmond

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Posted at 4:13 PM, Apr 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-16 08:59:26-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Law enforcement, city leaders and Richmond Public Schools are responding to a recent wave of violence, claiming the lives of eight people over the last few weeks.

According to Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards, since March 31, of theeight people shot and killed, four of them were juveniles.

James Minor, who lives in Church Hill and is also affiliated with the Richmond NAACP, said he witnessed the most recent one Sunday, where a 16-year-old was killed and four other people were shot.

"We heard over 40 gunshots yesterday, and immediately I knew that somebody was gone," Minor said. "I rushed down there, I saw the young man, and the other folks shot. It was unbelievable. I saw that young man take his last breath," Minor said.

According to Richmond Police, most of the recent shootings have stemmed from simple arguments, where those involved are carrying weapons.

"In some cases, adults have tried to intervene. In other cases, adults have exacerbated the situation," said Police Chief Rick Edwards.

In response, Edwards said "Operation Safe Summer" would launch this week, rather than in June as it did in 2023.

The operation focuses on increasing police patrols in 21 different "hot-spots" across the city to reduce gun violence and get illegal guns off Richmond's streets.

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Some of those hot-spots include Richmond's South Side, North Side, and East End.

"The vast majority of people who live in these hot-spots aren't creating the problems. It's a tiny segment of the population causing almost all of our gun violence," Edwards said.

Around a dozen Virginia State Police troopers will assist with patrols in these areas. There will also be increased security around East End schools during pick-up and drop off.

Police will also crack down on Richmond's 11 p.m. curfew for kids.

According to Chief Edwards, last year, Operation Safe Summer contributed to a 30% reduction in gun violence in 2023. Edwards said law enforcement obtained 176 illegal firearms, as well as 10 glock-switches.

"To the young people who choose to pick up the gun and pull the trigger, we will find you. You will be held accountable," said Mayor Levar Stoney during Monday's press conference.

Stoney urged parents to play an active role in preventing gun violence among Richmond's youth.

Superintendent Jason Kamras shared a long list of all the schools impacted by recent gun violence.

They include Martin Luther King Jr. Middle, Chimborazo Elementary, Armstrong High, Bellevue Elementary, Richmond Alternative School, and Thomas Jefferson High School.

The waves of violence have happened time and time again during the Superintendent's tenure.

"Since 2019, 169 juveniles in the city of Richmond have been shot. Nearly all of those are RPS students," Kamras said. "This has to stop."

RPD said the Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney for the city is fully on-board with Operation Safe Summer starting almost two months early.

Edwards said the Commonwealth's Attorney may elevate some of the cases to the federal level.

The official start of Operation Safe Summer will be Friday, April 19.

Minor said he was pleased with the press conference's overall message urging parents to get involved.

"Personally, I'm tired of it. I hear gunshots every other day. And it's time for that stuff to cease. We're tired of it," Minor said.

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