Apr 15, 2024 - News

Richmond implements curfew and ramps up patrols in response to teen homicides

Photo illustration of a Richmond Police cruiser with lines radiating from it.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Image

Richmond police are ramping up patrols in "hotspots" and activating an 11pm curfew for teens in response to a spate of gun violence that killed four teenagers in the last two weeks.

Why it matters: Eight Richmond Public School students have been shot, and four of them killed since Easter. Elementary school students were among the youngest victims; a 14-year-old middle school student was the youngest killed.

The big picture: In an emotional press conference Monday, Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards, Mayor Stoney and RPS superintendent Jason Kamras pleaded with the community to help them curb the sudden increase in violence.

  • "The common theme in these murders are simple arguments that have escalated into gunfire," Edwards said Monday.

Driving the news: In response to the recent killings, beginning this week state police will help RPD patrol 21 "hotspots" where the city has seen the most gun violence.

  • RPD will also provide "security and extra police presence" at RPS drop-off and pickup locations, especially in East End schools.
  • An 11pm curfew for teens is also now in effect.

Richmond, like its adjacent localities, has a long-standing youth curfew on the books, running from 11pm-5am.

  • Violations can be punishable by a max $500 fine and mandatory 20 hours of community service, according to city code.
  • It's unclear how strenuously RPD plans to enforce the curfew. Edwards said his hope is that parents will ensure their kids are following it and that police will not have to intervene.
  • "We don't want to be scooping up kids and bringing them home. If we have to do that, we'll do that. But ideally we want parents and guardians taking on that role and keeping them home," he said.

Zoom in: The recent homicides of children in the city include:

Between the lines: Frustration, sadness and palpable anger — that was the tone from officials at Monday's press conference. It also echoed much of what the same officials were saying just 10 months ago after the Huguenot High School graduation shooting that left one RPS student dead and another sentenced to decades in prison.

  • "Everybody has a damn gun. … Guns have saturated our underprivileged areas of the city," Stoney said.
  • "These are small arguments that escalate, but everyone in the argument has a gun — that's how we're seeing what we're seeing," Edwards said.
  • "Our students should be focused on the SOL in two weeks, instead we're holding grief sessions," Kamras said. "This has to stop."

Stunning stat: "Since 2019, 169 juveniles in the city of Richmond have been shot. Nearly all of those were RPS students," Kamras said Monday.

What's next: As part of its all-hands approach to the recent violence, the city is moving up its planned initiative to increase enforcement during the summertime, "Operation Safe Summer," to begin Friday instead of in June.

  • Last year RPD's targeted increased enforcement approach resulted in a 30% drop in summer gun violence and nearly 200 illegal guns taken off the streets, Edwards said.

What we're watching: In a call for parents and guardians to be more involved, Stoney pointed to the Michigan parents who last week became the first parents in the U.S. to be held criminally responsible for a mass shooting committed by their child.

  • The parents were sentenced to 10-15 years each, convicted of involuntary manslaughter for failing to respond to increasing warnings from school officials about their son's behavior.
  • "We can't fill in every single gap. … If the parents don't step up … that lane is wide open now after Michigan," Stoney said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

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