Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham knows he has an uphill battle.
The city saw an increase in firearm violence in 2015, and homicides this year were at 33 through the end of July. Most of those were committed with guns.
“It’s just so easy, the accessibility to firearms in this city; it’s like nothing I’ve seen,” Durham says.
But Gun 250, a new initiative to get illegal guns off the street, is starting to see results. From March to early August, police collected 61 confidential texts (to 274637, keyword: GUN250) about illegal guns. Those tips have led to 14 confiscated guns — and $250 for each of the informants.
“We had to put more tools in our toolbox,” Durham says. “We wanted information on crimes of violence and the tools that criminals use for crimes of violence — and that’s firearms.”
The results may seem modest, but Durham is counting on the slow building of a grassroots approach. “I’m always traversing the community; it’s all about building trust. Our officers have little business cards [about Gun 250],” he says. “I always tell people, that somebody’s life you save could be your own.”
Some tips uncover other illegal activities. Durham mentions a woman in whose house police found drugs, paraphernalia and scales — all the signs of narcotics trade. “And she said, ‘I don’t deal drugs. Those are my grandkids’ friends.’ I said, ‘You as an adult, you oughta know who’s inside your house, what’s going on.’
“You know, people are only going to do in your community what you allow them to do.”