Monday, June 2, 2014

Mayor Addresses Recent Incidents of Crimes Involving Children


Mayor Dwight C. Jones and Richmond Police Chief Ray Tarasovic addressed media today regarding recent incidents of crimes involving children. The following are Mayor Jones’ remarks as prepared for delivery for today’s press briefing.

Thank you for joining me here this morning.

I wish we could be meeting under better circumstances, but I’m here with Police Chief Tarasovic to talk about some of the challenges we’ve been facing recently.

As Mayor, one of the standards I’ve set is for prompt notification – no matter what time of day or night – when there is a major crime incident in the city and incidents involving children. Over time, I’ve taken calls from our chief at 1:00 a.m. in the morning, 4:00 a.m. in the morning, and at various other times.

It’s horrible when I receive the calls that a tragedy has occurred somewhere in our city. The only thing worse is the Police Chief having to make the call to report in on something tragic that has sadly occurred. Today, I feel that I’ve been getting too many of those calls lately, and that’s what I’m here to speak about.

I want to first thank our Police Chief and the men and women of our police force for the hard work they have been doing. They are often on the scene of these incidents in less than a minute. They have a strong case-closing rate and have actually improved our overall crime statistics in recent years. They do a fine job of standing for excellence, integrity and justice.

But we must do more.

In February, a 7-year old was struck by a random bullet. In May, a 5-year old was struck. This past weekend, a 2-year old.

No child should grow up gathering memories of being shot in their neighborhood. That is unacceptable, and I am outraged.

We should all be outraged at this and we must all recognize that this is not just a policing problem, this is a community problem.

What I want to do today is call on the community to help us. Rise up against this type of behavior. If you see something, say something.

We’ve got to combat this together.

I can’t stress enough the importance of the community’s involvement in our efforts. For example, our efforts at sorting out what happened this past weekend when the 23 month old child was shot were greatly aided by the help of neighbors - neighbors who wanted the correct information to be known.

But we still have several cases of children being harmed where no one has come forward with information.  Cases where many people were present and know what happened, but have chosen not to get involved.

I implore you to take a stand and get involved. Take a stand against criminal activity in your communities.

Now there are several things we are continuing to work on to improve safety in our communities.

  • Our community policing model is designed to forge relationships with the police in neighborhoods. We’ve actually intensified our community policing model.
  • Police Chief Tarasovic has also recently reinstituted the sector community meetings, the first of which was held this past Saturday.
  • These problem-solving workshops are designed to help everyone work together and to give the public an opportunity to voice concerns, come up with solutions and craft a plan of action.
  • Get involved with these meetings as they come up in your communities. We are going to also use reverse 911 calls for upcoming meetings to help ensure that people know about these meetings and are more likely to get involved.
  • We continue to work to get illegal guns off the street – a major factor as it relates to violent crime. Since the 22nd of May, our police force got 14 illegal guns off the streets over a 9 day period.  And we must do everything we can to close loopholes and get illegal guns off the streets – an effort I’ve joined over 1,000 Mayor in as a part of Mayor’s Against Illegal Guns.
  • In June, we will be getting assistance from the State with our annual Fugitive and Firearms Initiative. Every year our police department seizes large numbers of illegal guns with the help of area law enforcement partners. Last year 146 weapons were taken off of the street. The effort also focuses on locating persons wanted for crimes.
  • We continue our community walks – door to door. I’ve participated in past walks and will be participating in more.  This provides an opportunity for us to go directly to the public, to hear concerns, provide information, and to gather ideas.
  • Our faith leaders remain active – working to build a sense of community and to help with healing and nurturing troubled areas of our city. Embrace these faith leaders and work with them to build better neighborhoods.
Our efforts have been consistent and working in many ways – thankfully. And I have no doubt that these efforts are saving somebody’s life.

Now I think we all know that when it comes to crime and criminal activity, there is no instant panacea and there never will be. But if we work together, we can strengthen our ability to prevent rather than simply solve crimes. And one of the things that I want the community to understand is that we must address this issue on all fronts.

One of the reasons I’ve focused so heavily on poverty mitigation and economic development strategies for our city is because I know that crime is, in large part, inextricably a symptom of poverty. Our city is paying a heavy economic and social price for cramming the poor into concentrated areas. As Mayor, my job is to work to steer us in the direction that will create quality of life for everyone. And we are consistently working on those things that will lead to improved workforce training and job opportunities, better educational outcomes and community schools, transportation options, and redevelopment of public housing. All of these things are preventative responses to crime and we must continue to work for those gains.

But we also must start right where we are and there are several things every individual can do right now:

  • Get to know the police officers who patrol your neighborhood.
  • Attend those neighborhood meetings hosted by your city council representatives or Richmond police.
  • Talk to young people about how they should conduct themselves and encourage your local high school to invite police in to get to know the students, for example.
  • And, if you see something, say something. Silence only empowers the wrong doers.
Communities can and must be proactive. And I have that same message across the board – be it incidents involving children, or robberies, or any incidents of crime in our city.

I recently met with merchants from Broad Street after the Victoria Jewelers Homicide.  I met with Muhammad Baig’s father. I felt and saw his grief. We’ve reached out to the families of the children recently harmed, like Marty Cobb’s family. And I make it a point to have more direct involvement when minors are involved.

These senseless acts of violence tear at the very fabric of our city, but as I tell everyone, we cannot give in. The only way we will succeed is if we work together, take ownership of what is happening in our streets, and not stand for it or give into it.