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RPD shares quarterly crime update, dodges Dogwood Dell questions

Richmond police Chief Gerald Smith speaks
Crixell Matthews
Richmond police Chief Gerald Smith speaks at a November 2021 press conference. On Monday, Smith presented an update on crime during the first six months of 2022, saying property crime rose sharply. (File photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

The Richmond Police Department released its quarterly crime report on Monday. At a press conference in RPD’s downtown headquarters, Chief Gerald Smith said major crimes were up 28% in the first six months of the year, compared to the same period last year. 

Despite that, homicides and gun crimes either stayed steady or declined — with violent crime in general increasing by about 2% over last year. 

“Violent crime is not the main driver of this increase but property crime, specifically vehicles,” Smith said. 

Smith said catalytic converter theft has been an especially common offense. 

One of the biggest single increases came in arson. Police have recorded 39 arsons this year, compared to 11 in 2021. 

Police also reported a steep increase in property theft — 4,134 incidents this year, compared to 3,119 in the first half of 2021. 

Smith also touted Operation Red Ball, a targeted violent-crime reduction effort that has led to hundreds of criminal charges, at the press conference. He said police have confiscated 276 firearms through the program. 

Smith said the program uses community connections, confidential informants, criminal records and more in making arrests. The program has faced criticism, with some community members concerned about racial profiling. 

“You don’t make that list willy-nilly, it takes a little bit to get on that list,” Smith said. 

He also defended the operation’s concentration in the city’s public housing neighborhoods, saying that data from the past five years shows a disproportionate amount of violent crime occurs there. 

“It’s evidence-based. We’ve done our homework,” Smith said. 

During the press conference, Smith refused to answer questions about an alleged July Fourth mass shooting plot. 

"Next question. We ended the discussion. I ended the discussion,” Smith said, after being asked about the supposed plan. 

Richmond police and Mayor Levar Stoney reported the alleged plot to local and national media in early July — but faced scrutiny when a city prosecutor contradicted their account of the plan in court

Smith said the case is now in federal investigators’ hands. 

Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.