What is your jurisdiction, VCU PD?

Shannon Hays
Contributing Columnist

I stood on my front porch as heads were poking out of windows and doors, so I knew I wasn’t the only one who noticed the alarm. When I gave up on the Richmond Police’s non-emergency dispatch to take care of the car alarm that had been going off all night, I thought I’d give the VCU Police a chance. However, the non-emergency dispatcher explained that because the car was parked on the street it was not in their jurisdiction, even though I live within the “VCU Monroe Park Core Campus.”

According to the VCU Police Department, “Campus police jurisdiction includes all university owned, leased and controlled property and the adjacent streets and sidewalks.” The address I gave the police was adjacent to a VCU building. There are clearly a few loopholes in the jurisdiction of the university police. My concern is how the misleading jurisdiction is handled in emergency situations, unlike the car alarm disturbance.

The VCU Police deal with parking violations deep within the Fan, giving citations to VCU students regularly. The only explanation for the confusion could be due to the City of Richmond monitoring parking, street cleaning and parking passes in the Fan.

Within the city of Richmond, the noise guidelines are rather strict. Richmond Code §38-32 states that “Violation of these ordinances is a Class 2 misdemeanor,” which means the offender is given either six months in jail or a $1,000 fine. For having such a harsh policy on noise, the implementation is not as consistent. Giving warnings is common, but if there is nobody to warn how is the problem resolved?

VCU PD investigates reports all types of complaints in residences, as well as outside. It is common for noise complaints to often lead to other charges such as illegal drug possession and alcohol consumption once the police have entered the premises. In non-emergency situations, however, the police act in a different manner.

The VCU police have been working closely with the Richmond PD since 2013. According to NBC12 news, a 60-day joint patrol led to a “46 percent reduction in overall crime in the Carver neighborhood.” The relationship between the two police departments has benefitted the community significantly, but there may be misconceptions as to which department to call in certain situations. I was immediately transferred over to the correct line to attempt to resolve the issue, but in the case of an emergency, time is valuable.

What does matter is that the communication between the police and its citizens is clear and safety is ensured. For example, there have been six reported hit-and-run offenses in the past month in the VCU area. According to the Richmond PD Crime Incident Information Center, the VCU crime report lists 17 hit-and-runs located on the Monroe Park Campus alone. Where is the line drawn between the two police departments? Maybe it’s clear to the police. To the students? Not so much. It’s important for the students reporting crimes to know the right number to call.

The lack of authority on such a small matter was alarming. The VCU and Richmond Police work together with offenses such as robberies, but who is left to take care of the car alarms going off all night? Without the police resolving these issues, citizens resort to vandalism which just causes problems further down the road. If the police would put as much effort into taking care of non-emergency issues as they do with more serious crimes, petty crimes like vandalism would be avoidable.

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