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Richmond police chief gives mid-year crime report

A person wearing a police uniform speaks at a podium
Connor Scribner
VPM News
Acting Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards presents crime statistics for the first half of 2023 on Thursday, July 20, 2023 at Richmond Police Department Headquarters.

Thefts from vehicles increased 21% compared to the first six months of 2022.

Acting Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards said Thursday that violent crimes in the city decreased slightly over the first six months of 2023, with 8% less reported than the same period last year. Property crime, meanwhile, ticked up, driven by vehicle-related thefts.

Edwards — who will be sworn in as the official chief on Monday — reported the number of thefts from vehicles increased 21% compared to the first six months of 2022. He said in a majority of vehicle break-ins, the car was left unlocked, noting Richmond Police Department officers rarely find car windows smashed in.

He encouraged Richmonders to lock their vehicles and ensure they do not leave firearms in them. According to the department, 358 firearms have been stolen from cars so far this year. Edwards pointed to the death of Marquan Mitchell-Nash in March.

“The 13-year-old who was killed in March was killed with a gun that was stolen out of an unlocked car four or five blocks from his home,” Edwards said. “Within hours, it’s being used to kill him.”

Thefts of vehicles are also up so far this year, driven by Hyundais and Kias. Several vehicles made by those manufacturers between 2015 and 2021 had an ignition vulnerability shared widely on social media sites that allowed the cars to be started with a USB cable. Edwards encouraged owners of affected cars to consider purchasing a wheel lock.

Catalytic converter thefts, which have been a noted problem in recent years, dropped by about 45% during the first six months of 2023. Edwards attributed part of the decline to multiple local police departments’ partnership with Midas of Richmond to paint the converters on people’s cars. People can still get their catalytic converters painted at Midas for free, but must first call to register.

Edwards also discussed the department’s staffing shortages, which have plagued RPD for years. He previously told Richmond City Council in March that the department was short about 150 of 750 officers.

“We can have the best tactics and best training and best plans for our crime prevention and everything else, but we still need the manpower and we’re still building our agency back,” Edwards said Thursday.

Council approved raises for sworn officers in its budgets for fiscal years 2023 and 2024 in hopes of attracting more applicants, and Edwards said those efforts are paying off. He said applications to the department increased 74% during the first six months of 2023, compared to the same period last year.

As a result of the persistent staffing shortages, RPD has relied on overtime, costing the department about $2 million dollars during the first three months of 2023.

Connor Scribner is a former VPM News assistant editor.
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