In 2014, more people were slain in Richmond before Halloween than in all of 2013. There was 78-year-old Emma Cook, who was stabbed to death in her East End apartment in early January. Marty Cobb, the 8-year-old beaten to death in May behind his South Side home after sticking up for his older sister. Father-to-be Muhammed Baig, shot dead that same month at the downtown jewelry store where he worked, less than 24 hours before the birth of his daughter.
Thirty-eight homicides in the first 10 months of the calendar put the city on pace for the most killings it has seen in a year since 2007, when there were 55. While total homicides in the East End and North Side declined from 2013 to 2014, they have increased on the South Side. Twenty-seven homicides occurred across the James through October versus 16 in all of 2013.
“The problem is, how do you handle something that goes on behind closed doors?” asks Reva Trammell, councilwoman for the 8th District, which encompasses much of South Richmond. “If it happens at a party, a hotel, behind closed doors, how do you handle it?”
The Richmond Police Department has cleared 23, or about 63 percent, of the city’s homicides as of the end of October, says Dionne Waugh, an RPD spokeswoman. (The national average is 64 percent.) Aside from evidence recovered at the death scene, the extent to which witnesses cooperate often contributes to the department clearing homicide cases, she adds.
Even with the increase, 2014 data compares favorably to years past. In 1994, there were 161 homicides in the city, many fueled by drug violence precipitated by the crack epidemic. Ten years later, there were 95. At the end of 2014, homicides will likely total less than half of that number.
Trammell credits the decrease of violence to proactive citizens in neighborhoods once averse to calling 911. “If we didn’t have [community policing], where would we be? We’d be back in ’95 and ’96,” she says. “We’ve come a long way, and we don’t want to go back.”