RICHMOND, Va. -- The City of Richmond has averaged about 60 homicides a year in recent years. In 2021, the city surpassed the tragic 60-homicide mark in October.
The rising homicide rate was one reason why Senator Mark Warner (D - Virginia) and other government and community leaders gathered in Richmond on Friday.
During the meeting, VCU Medical Trauma Surgeon Dr. Michael Aboutanos delivered a sobering statistic.
"This year, every month we are going at a 121 percent increase," Dr. Aboutanos said about the number of gunshot wound patients — from across metro-Richmond — being treated at VCU. "This is a serious issue. One we can not ignore."
The numbers seemed to shock Warner, who has been in the U.S. Senate representing Virginia since 2009 and served as Governor of Virginia from 2002 - 2006.
"I don't think I realized the numbers were that astronomical, " Sen. Warner said. "Because the interesting thing during COVID we've seen is the gun violence levels go up, but many other levels of crime have gone down."
Warner said it was clear to him that the rise in gun violence was at least partly due to the pandemic.
"The frustration of people not being able to get back into the community, the frustration with schools being shut down. But 120 percent increase, month over month over last year? If that doesn't scream epidemic, I don't know what does."
Warner listened as community leaders shared their solutions to the region's gun violence problem and made their pitch for federal funds.
"All of us are coming together to look at this issue, but there needs to be some comprehensive funding to support all components - primarily gun violence," Torey Edmonds, with the VCU Dept. of Family Medicine and Population Health, said.
The gun violence issue is not unique to Richmond or Central Virginia.
Statistics compiled by the Gun Violence Archive show youth homicides rose sharply from 2019 to 2020, and that this year is shaping up to be even worse.
Through Monday, shootings claimed 1,179 young lives and left 3,292 youths injured.
Some experts told the Associated Press idleness caused by the COVID-19 pandemic shared the blame with easy access to guns and disputes that too often end with gunfire.
Richmond Police have officially reported 60 homicides in the city thru October 10, 2021. Unofficially, the homicide number of October 15 is 64.
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.
|2021||60 homicides (as of Oct. 10, 2021)|
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.