Mar 18, 2024 - News

Henrico police will no longer respond to certain calls, including shoplifting and marijuana use

Illustration of an old rotary phone covered in cobwebs

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Henrico County Police will no longer respond to "certain calls for service" effective immediately, the department announced Monday.

Why it matters: Shoplifting, noise complaints, medical emergencies and marijuana use are among the categories of calls Henrico Police will stop responding to, Chief Eric English said in a video posted across social media channels.

The big picture: The county has been responding to some calls for which it has "no legal authority," which has kept officers from responding to ones where it does and that could be a higher priority, English said.

Context: Violent crimes and vehicle thefts are at a five-year high in Henrico while the police department is short around 64 officers, English said in a presentation to the county board of supervisors last week, per WTVR.

  • Police departments in Pittsburgh and Austin have recently enacted similar policy changes due to understaffing.
  • With the change, Henrico hopes to reduce the number of calls it receives by around 5,000, English said.

Zoom in: In the video, English shared which calls they won't respond to anymore, cited some exceptions to the list — and offered some insight into some of the calls they currently get:

  • 🐶 Animal calls between 11pm-7am will be left until animal control comes on duty in the morning — with exceptions for attacks, animal injuries or cruelty.
  • 🥁 Loud parties or noise complaints, including gripes about loud walkers and children running in hallways — except for violations of Henrico code.
  • 🚑 Medical emergencies in which police "are not needed by other first responders" — except for life-threatening crime in progress.
  • 🪧 Service calls for people who are lawfully in a median or "homeless individuals who appear fine"
  • 🛍️ Shoplifting in which there is no evidence and callers do not intend to prosecute — those calls can go to the non-emergency number, 804-501-4810, and a future online citizen complaint portal.
  • 🚗 Abandoned vehicles and bicycles.
  • 😶‍🌫️ Marijuana use within a residence, because it's legal — except for "active drug transactions."
  • 👶🏻 Juvenile problems, including "calls to assist with parenting," truancy or "requesting an officer to speak with a child about the consequences of their actions" — except for an actual crime.
  • 🫴 Panhandling — except for panhandlers trespassing or violating traffic laws.

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