RICHMOND, Va. -- 2021 was one of the most violent years Richmond has seen in decades when it comes to shootings and homicides.
The fourth quarter alone accounted for one-third of the city's murder total.
In the new year, a new operation has seen early success. 71 weapons were confiscated in Richmond in just the first three weeks and 98 felony arrests have been made.
Police jump out squads are recovering illegal guns almost daily
"This is a great operation we are putting together and making a serious impact within our community and this is what seventy guns look like if you lay them out,” said Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith.
Smith gave an overview of crime in the city last year on Friday. 2021 saw 90 homicides, up 36% from the 66 the year before. 31 of last year's killings happened between October and December.
The 2021 uptick in Richmond is also being reflected in national trends.
"We are in a trend, an unfortunate national trend, where we are seeing violence, specifically gun violence going up and the effects of it are showing in our homicide numbers,” said Smith. “We need to always remember that numbers are numbers but behind each, there are families, friends and people who cared for that individual."
Youth victims and offenders were also on the rise in 2021. Smith delivered a staggering statistic about kids getting access to weapons.
“We recovered 947 guns last year,” Smith said. “Half of those were stolen out of cars and property. People need to be more responsible. “You asked how kids are getting the weapons? Stealing. That’s how."
“Operation Red Ball” has a little over 60 days left. However, with the program's early success police say it could be extended.
"At the end of the 90 day period, we will reassess and see if we want to continue it or tweak it or make Operation Red Ball something else, but we will make sure we make the best of our resources," Smith said.
Smith acknowledges retaining personnel at the Richmond Police Department is still a problem.
Multiple sources say Richmond Police are down more than 150 officers since the summer of 2020.