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Richmond Police highlight gun violence prevention effort, but are unable to provide shooting numbers

RPD Crime Officer Generic Officer Richmond Police Department.jpg
Posted at 12:08 PM, Apr 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-29 12:08:56-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith did not provide shooting numbers at a news conference Thursday giving an overview of crime in 2022 despite handing out a packet highlighting the city's gun violence prevention initiative.

When CBS 6 Problem Solver Melissa Hipolit requested the numbers, Chief Smith said he would get them to her. However, a spokeswoman later told her the request would have to be treated as a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and would require five days to get the information.

The crime numbers the Chief did provide showed homicides are slightly down from this time last year. But aggravated assaults, which include some of the city's shootings, are way up and comparable to pre-COVID numbers.

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Marquise Trent has been there done that, but ten years ago he escaped the streets and is now working to convince young people to turn away from his old lifestyle, including the guns and violence.

"I used to drink hard liquor at 14 trying to heal this pain on the inside," Trent said. "Treat people like you want to be treated, and I promise you so much will change."

In his book, "Overstanding: A Comprehensive Look at Gangsta Rap it's Subgenres and their Effect on Our Generations," Trent argues gangsta rap is making the situation worse.

CBS 6 Problem Solver Melissa Hipolit and Marquise Trent
CBS 6 Problem Solver Melissa Hipolit and Marquise Trent

"This guy is telling you I used it to justify doing wrong, and now he is doing two life sentences plus 60 years," Trent said.

Gun violence is a problem both Trent and Chief Smith said the police cannot fix alone.

"What if other people stood up and said, 'This is up to us. We can't expect the police to do it?' The police cannot fix it alone," Trent said.

Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith
Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith

Smith said his office is working hard to get illegal guns off the street.

"Operation Red Ball has taken 159 firearms to date off the street," Smith said.

And, he said, RPD is in the process of reviewing applications for violence interrupters, who will work to prevent ongoing disputes from escalating to violence.

"Sometimes someone from the community may be able to step in there and calm things down," Smith said.

Smith's spokesperson handed out the gun violence prevention packet put together by Mayor Levar Stoney's office.

It lays out a multi-faceted approach to reducing gun violence, which includes more out-of-school programming, improving officer recruitment and salaries, and addressing the root causes of crime.

"The gun violence initiative that was released yesterday, that is the way you do it. We can actually go out there and do our job and lock as many people up who commit crimes as we can. But the way you actually stop it, and lower numbers and keep them down and sustain them, is through a community effort," Smith said.

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