While homicides and non-fatal shootings increased in Richmond last year, Richmond had a 2 percent decrease in violent crime, according to the Richmond Police Department.
Police Chief Alfred Durham outlined crime trends in a news conference Jan. 25. He highlighted the drop in violent crime including murder, robbery, rape and aggravated assault.
“There will have to come a time whereby a murder in the city of Richmond will not be the norm, but an anomaly,” Durham said at the news conference.
Arguments turned violent accounted for 30 percent of last year’s murders, according to the data. Durham points a finger at social media as the instigating factor for the violence.
“Folks just can’t seem to settle disagreements without resorting to violence here in our city,” Durham said. “Social media, especially with our young people, is what precipitates a lot of this violence.”
Jeanine Guidry a VCU public relations professor who studies social media and health communication, said social media can contribute both to violence and increased awareness.
“Social media like any form of technology can be used in a variety of ways, some of those are harmful, and some of them are beneficial,” Guidry said. “It can provide a vehicle for bullying, for example, but it also can provide a way for people to speak out on sexual violence.”
The reduction in violent crime is largely due to a decline in reported rapes. There were 52 reports of rape in 2016 and 38 reports of rape last year. In addition, business robberies reduced by 22 percent.
Last year’s positive trend follows a 17 percent increase in violent crime in 2016. The overall crime rate in Richmond is higher than it was five or even 10 years ago.
In 2017, the number of people shot in aggravated assaults grew 16 percent and there was a 20 percent increase in shootings during robberies. Richmond also had an 8 percent increase in murder than in 2016.
“The level of violence that is occurring has to stop,” said Durham. “The police can’t do it alone.”
At the news conference, Durham announced initiatives the police department has to combat crime trends. One of the initiatives laid out by Durham concerned the online crime statistics page. This year, the public will be able to access a crime page that is updated every Monday.
“You still have to watch where you go and at what times of day, depending on the parts of the city,” White said. “As a whole, I think Richmond is making it seem like a safer city even if crime really hasn’t gone down much.”
Matthew Barrett, Contributing Writer