Richmond groups take responsibility for decrease in crime

By Lorenzo Morotti, Editor-in-Chief

The rate of violent crimes within Richmond has dropped by 25 percent from last year, the lowest it has seen in 33 years.

Community trust in its police department has strengthened because of crime solvency projects made possible through millions of dollars in donations.

Richmond Police Department Capt. Mark Gagan said several major changes contributed to maximize the efforts to stop criminal activities and make a “huge reduction in shootings.”

“I can’t say it was just the police department,” Gagan said. “The most dynamic change came from the community involvement. They truly made the difference.”

Gagan said Operation Ceasefire, a problem-oriented policing method that reaches out to possible targets of gang violence, places suspects under surveillance, and divides the city into three smaller jurisdictions to reduce dispatch time to the scene of a crime.

He said the operation has been the leading force behind this drastic decline in murder rates and crime.
“Ceasefire is a straight forward solvency plan that understands that no one group can solve serious crimes on their own,” he said.

The project was first implemented to in 1996 to combat gun violence and trafficking related to the strong presence of gangs in Boston.

Gagan said Ceasefire has made the department outreach to potential victims about them being possible gang targets so they can be more vigilant.

He said the initiative also contacts criminals high on the wanted list and informs them that they are a possible suspect of investigation because of their gang affiliation and criminal record. He said unless they change their ways. “We try to make incentives for the person by emphasizing their options,” Gagan said.

Operation Ceasefire is now being used in many California cities that have a large amount of gang-related crimes such as Oakland, Los Angeles, Stockton and Fresno.

Richmond has not only received support from the community by pointing out individuals and becoming more trusting of the intentions of the police department but it has received annual funding to implement this project from a large oil corporation.

Since 2012, Chevron Corp has donated about $11.5 million toward improving education, economic development, public safety, and community engagement within the city.

Richmond Fire Chief Michael Banks said while his department responds more to medical emergencies, the relationship between the command of the police department and Richmond residents has strengthened because of quicker response times.

“(The police department) have a very involved presence in the community,” Banks said. “Improvements in communication with them has reduced criminal activity and restored residents trust into their police department.”