Richmond police have arrested dozens based on a list of potential ‘shooters’

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Representatives from the Richmond Police Department said last week they were compiling a list of people suspected of being “shooters”. Those on the list primarily reside in public housing neighborhoods in Richmond, according to department officials, who said the RPD created the list in an effort to address gun violence in the city.

About 100 people are on the list, according to Major Major Ronnie Armstead. Armstead led the department’s efforts in compiling the list, which includes people who do not have criminal records. In addition to focusing on people who have already shot others, RPD also added victims of gun violence and people who “will shoot other people” to the list.

“They compiled a list of individuals known to be shooters. Your violent ones who are known to be shooters, even though they didn’t have a criminal record, but they are known to be shooters,” said Armstead, who presented information about the project to the city’s board of commissioners. Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority. Wednesday.

According to Armstead, police decide whether a person “will shoot other people” by investigating their background and ties to confirmed perpetrators of gun violence.

In a follow-up interview on Monday, Armstead told VPM News that “the knowledge we have of them, like the people who talk to us in the community, the implications they have,” will help RPD make its decision.

According to ACLUracial profiling refers to “the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals suspected of crime because of their race, ethnicity, religion or national origin”. United States dataa platform that collects and analyzes government data, reported that black people make up 60% of people living in poverty in Richmond.

“We’re going after these triggers all over town, and especially in the Big Six,” Armstead said last week.

Richmond’s largest public housing neighborhoods are often referred to as “the big six” by public housing advocates and law enforcement. These are the courts of Creighton, Fairfield, Gilpin, Hillside, Mosby and Whitcomb.

VPM News reached out to several current and former residents of Richmond’s public housing neighborhoods to comment on the story, but none said they felt safe discussing the situation on file.

Operation Red Ball

Officers have been engaged in the initiative to create a watch list, called Operation Red Ball, since November, according to Armstead. He said Monday the department had succeeded in its mission by arresting at least 45 public housing residents across the city, who were among those arrested on suspicion of 188 felonies and 138 misdemeanors in connection with the operation.

Maj. Richard Edwards, Richmond Police Zone 1 commander, said at Wednesday’s meeting that the project used data collected by the department between 2017 and 2020 to map areas with gun crime. are concentrated in the city. These data included homicides, aggravated assaults and robberies with a firearm.

The area around Mosby Court has been hardest hit by these gun crimes, according to Edwards. Now Mosby is the main target of Operation Red Ball, he said.

“These… neighborhood landmasses represent 2% of the city’s land, but accounted for 26% of these violent crimes,” Edwards said.

Operation Red Ball also monitors public housing residents using newly installed security cameras and tracks some residents’ social media posts, according to Armstead.

“One thing about these individuals is that they love their guns, they love to post [online]said Armstead. “We look at things like this as part of an investigative tool to track these individuals and apprehend them.”

So far, officers working on Red Ball have identified a total of 40 people as potential ‘shooters’ at Mosby Court and arrested at least 22 people on suspicion of various crimes and misdemeanors, Armstead said at the court meeting. RRHA. He also said another 30 people in courts in Creighton and Hillside, which have also been flagged as hotspots for gun crimes, are focused on the operation. At least 23 of those people have already been charged, Armstead said.

Thirty additional people have been added to the list. Law enforcement officials did not specify which areas they lived in, but said some of the people resided in other public housing areas of Richmond.

Advocates recommend alternatives

Omari Al-Qadaffi is a community organizer with the Legal Aid Justice Center, a non-profit organization that provides legal services and advocates for low-income Virginians. He said these concentrations of crime are due to the negligence of the RRHA. Next month, the housing authority is organizing a ceremony to celebrate the completion of the first phase of its Creighton Court redevelopment project, which will eventually include the demolition of 503 social housing units and their replacement with a mixed-income neighbourhood. In the meantime, these apartments are empty.

“I would expect there to be more crime in a development where half the units are vacant,” Al-Qadaffi said. “I was getting a lot of reports about residents feeling that the vacant units around them were increasing crime in the community.”

Edwards said at last week’s meeting that with Creighton being dismantled, it remains the second-biggest hotspot for gun crimes in the city.

Al-Qadaffi said that instead of targeting and arresting people suspected of gun violence or suspected of potentially committing a crime with a gun in the future, the city should implement programs to gun violence intervention, connecting social housing residents to resources.

One such program, called Operation Ceasefire, has been instituted in Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and more recently in California. According to justice departmentmost of these cities succeeded in reducing rates of gun violence by approximately 25% to 60% after program implementation.

Operation Ceasefire also tracks local gun violence cases to compile a list of those most likely to commit it. Then, the community partners intervene by holding forums with these people and offering them support including intensive services and employment training.

“I just hope they follow the lead of other violence intervention programs…instead of just sending them to law enforcement,” Al-Qadaffi said of the police work in Richmond in the Big Six.

Has security improved?

On Wednesday, RRHA director of public safety Marty Harrison told the board that care should be taken to avoid giving the impression that these neighborhoods were being over-policed.

“We know that sometimes a police presence, if it’s too police, makes people feel like they’re confined,” Harrison said.

Barrett Hardiman, chairman of the RRHA Board of Commissioners, agreed with Harrison at Wednesday’s meeting that children living in housing authority properties do not feel safe. He said increased police presence is the answer.

“Children…cannot go out and play freely, as they should be able to in communities,” Hardiman said. “Children in these difficult communities don’t have the same level of freedom.”

Edwards and Armstead told the council that Red Ball had shown positive results, including a 52% decrease from last year in violent crime in four of the city’s public housing districts. However, those gains have so far not led to a decrease in the total number of people shot in the city, according to Edwards.

“When we look at our individual total[s] shot, we’re one shot ahead,” Edwards said during the meeting. “Last year at this time we had 12 murders. In the same period this year we had five [murders].”

Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith endorsed Operation Red Ball at a news conference on Monday.

“They go after those who pull the trigger – and they do a phenomenal, phenomenal job,” Smith said.

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