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Richmond sets youth curfew amid spate of gun violence

Mayor Stoney gives remarks
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Mayor Levar Stoney gives remarks flanked by members of the School Board, Superintendent Jason Karmas, Police Chief Rick Edwards, and members of the City Council during a press conference on recent gun violence on Monday, April 15, 2024 at City Hall in Richmond, Virginia.

169 minors have been shot in Richmond since 2019, RPS superintendent Jason Kamras said.

Richmond officials are responding to the recent increase in gun violence affecting city school students by implementing a curfew for minors.

Between March 31 and Monday, eight people in Richmond have been shot — and four of those who died were public school students, according to Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards.

Edwards identified a throughline in the recent violence: “The common theme in these murders are simple arguments that have escalated into gunfire. Taking a gun to an argument may make you feel safer, but it doesn't make you safer. In some of these cases, adults have tried to intervene. In some of these cases, adults have exacerbated the situation.”

He was flanked by Mayor Levar Stoney, Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras and members of City Council.

Kamras opened his own remarks by identifying each of the RPS facilities impacted by recent shootings: Bellevue and Chimborazo elementary schools, Martin Luther King Middle School, Armstrong and Thomas Jefferson high schools and Richmond Alternative School.

He said 169 minors have been shot in Richmond since 2019 — and nearly all of those were RPS students. That level of gun violence, he continued, has had a profound effect on the Richmond Public Schools community.

Kamras gives remarks as Mayor Stoney and Chief Edwards look on
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Superintendent Jason Kamras gives remarks as Mayor Stoney and Chief Rick Edwards listen on during a press conference on Monday, April 15, 2024 at City Hall in Richmond, Virginia.

“Think about the impact that has across friends and family members and teachers, our community, our schools, they are hurting. And they should be focused on the SOLs — which we're giving in two weeks,” Kamras said. “Instead, many of them this morning, and last week and tomorrow are holding grief sessions. Because that's what we do. We will always stand in the gap for our kids.”

The Richmond Times-Dispatch has reported on recent gun violence in a variety of city neighborhoods, including stories on the deaths of a 14-year-old who was shot March 31 in North Highland Park; a 16-year-old who was shot and killed in Whitcomb Court on April 10; and another 16-year-old who was shot Sunday on St. John Street. In a separate incident on April 11, a 17-year-old was injured in a shooting that left two people dead at Mosby Court.

“The bullets tear not only through bodies, but also through the connective tissue of our communities,” Kamras wrote in an email bulletin sent Monday to RPS families. “With each wound, our neighborhoods and the social bonds that strengthen them become even more stressed. Many are at the breaking point.”

The Richmond Police Department on Monday announced several strategies to combat the recent uptick in gun violence. This past weekend, Edwards called in the department’s property crimes personnel, as well as detectives, and put them in uniforms and unmarked police cars to patrol public safety hotspots.

“I’ve also asked the area Virginia State Police to come in this week and start assisting us. They’re focusing on our 21 hottest spots in Richmond, and they’ll be doing that all week,” Edwards said Monday.

In conjunction with the school division, RPD will also provide security and extra police presence at school pickup and drop-off locations. Edwards said the department would be “particularly focusing on the East End schools.”

The department also announced that in response to the violence, Operation Safe Summer will be restarted Friday instead of waiting until later in the year. The program was first launched last summer, and as a result, RPD said it saw a 30% reduction in gun violence. For the initiative, the department has partnered with Virginia State Police; the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the FBI; the United States Attorney’s Office; and the local Commonwealth’s Attorney.

City officials asked parents to keep their children at home in the evenings. The new curfew, which runs 11 p.m. through 5 a.m, was put in place beginning Monday for Richmond’s youth. It will run until further notice; penalties for noncompliance weren’t discussed.

In addition to the curfew and increased security presence, RPD has set up an anonymous tip line to report illegal firearms.

“I know there are challenges out there: It’s hard to meet the rent, put food on the table. But the top responsibility of parenthood is to care for your child no matter where they are, what time of day it is,” Stoney said. “After 11 o'clock, I want our parents and our guardians to ask, ‘Where are our children? Where are our children?’”

Last year, VPM News spoke with Angela Jones, the director of culture, climate and student services at RPS. The conversation, “How Richmond Public Schools responds when gun violence affects students,” focused on ways the division responds to gun violence in the community.

A number of other resources are available to help families in the area. In 2022, VPM News published the “Another Way: How one Virginia city reckons with gun violence” series. It includes a list of resources designed to help those who’ve been affected by gun violence, as well as how to prevent youth from becoming involved with guns.

Meghin Moore is a VPM News editor. She's a Penn State graduate with a background in broadcast and digital journalism. Previously, she worked at The Daily Progress in Charlottesville.
Dawnthea M. Price Lisco (dawn-TAY-uh, she/her) is the managing editor at VPM News.
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