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Crime

On murder in Richmond (1971-2010)

No one was killed in Richmond in June 2010. Going back to at least 1980, Richmond has only had three months without any homicides. Each of these quiet months has come in the last 8 months, and 2 of them have come in 2010.

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Murder in Richmond, VA 1971-2009

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Until 2008, 1981 had seen the fewest killings in Richmond since 1971 (with a count of 51). The number started rising in the mid-1980s and jumped to 100 in 1988. The yearly toll stayed over 100 for 10 straight years, hitting 161 in 1994 and 140 in 1997. The count dipped back into the 70s, jumped towards 100 in 2004, and has fallen dramatically the past 3 years. The historic low of 32 was achieved in 2008, with 2009 close behind with 39. This drop has given Richmond something previously unseen: the month without any homicides.

In the first 28 years for which there is monthly data available, there was not a month in Richmond without someone being killed. Last year (2009), with 39 killings, saw no homicides in November – the first month since at least 1980 with no killings. Since then, Richmond has also had the quiet months of February 2010 and June 2010. After going 28+ years without a break, the city has seen no murders in 3 of the last 8 months. In the past 366 months, only 3 have passed without a killing, and all 3 have come in the last 8 months.

On the way to a devastating body count of 161, 1994 saw 2 months with over 20 killings, and only one month in the single digits. The violence peaked in August 1994 when 25 killings left someone dead almost every day of that month. There were more people killed in July and August of 1994 than in all of 2008. There were more murders that April than in the first 6 months of 2010. There were more murders that year than in 2007, 2008, 2009, and the 1st half of 2010 combined. It was rough, to say the least.

So far in 2010, Richmond has seen 19 murders (6 of which have come in the East End). This is the best start to a year for the 30 years that monthly records are available — ahead even each of the last 2 record-low years at this date, and a whopping 59 better than 1994’s count of 79 at the end of June.

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Murder count by month 1971-2010(PDF)

NOTE: 2008 shows 36 homicides. This was later revised to 32. The 31 homicides showing in the RPD database show no killings in May, Aug, and Dec 2008. 2009 shows 41, this was later revised to 39. (update 2/1/2015)

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The Richmond Police were able to provide a chart showing the killings per month covering the years 1980-2004. The RPD’s online Crime Incident Information Center and the Richmond-Times Dispatch’s online Homicide Report have data for the following years.

I would like to further look into which areas of Richmond have seen these amazing drops in violence over the past decades, but the data required isn’t readily available. The Richmond Police Department has said that they can get the data, but that it will cost between $2,500-$3,000 to pull together the pre-1998 information (as it not held electronically). This is way outside of my capability to self-fund. If anyone reading this has a compelling interest and a happy checkbook, please contact me.

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Houdon
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Houdon

Great reporting, John. This is the kind of news MSM won’t report either because of lack of time or lack of interest.

CHG
Guest
CHG

Agreed, great reporting!

Jeff E.
Guest
Jeff E.

Thanks for this presentation, John. I’d add to Houdon’s comment the fact that MSM doesn’t believe positive news sells enough papers/hits to justify spending much time on it. The “If it bleeds, it leads” rule still seems to apply. Hopefully that’s something hyper-local media can change.

Taber
Guest

Out of curiosity, I crunched these numbers into the annual murder rate (FBI uses incidents per 100,000 population). The results are pretty striking, even adjusted for population.

GRAPH: Murders per 100,000 1980-2009 (Richmond, Virginia)

DATA: Murders per 100,000 1980-2009 (Richmond, Virginia)

Jake
Guest
Jake

I find this data hard to believe. Working at MCV, I saw alot of people the last couple of months that died of either stabbings or gun shots. Not sure if they were flown in from other areas though. I see victims of gun violence all the time, yet it isn’t always reported, therefore, please don’t think Richmond is becoming any safer.

NewGuyOnTheHill
Guest
NewGuyOnTheHill

This is fantastic news!!

Can anybody shed some light on why the City has experienced a decrease in homicides since the 1990s? I have a few ideas…

SEW
Guest
SEW

John,

I think Jake was actually referring to gun violence, stabbings, etc. Not just murders. From his perspective he sees alot more than may actually have been reported to the police.

Jake
Guest
Jake

John, just because people don’t die from a shooting doesn’t mean it’s any safer. Spend a day in the ER at MCV and then you tell me honestly how you feel. Right now we have a shot gun victim, female, who’s looks like she’s going to make it. We had another one who was shot mulitiple times earlier in the week, yet the bullets missed every vital organ and the “victim” lives. Sorry John, I see it all, but most of what I see doesn’t get reported.

Lora
Guest
Lora

Jake, you have a tough job, and you see the results of a lot of violence; thank you for what you do. I think if I spent my days in the ER of a Richmond hospital, especially MCV, I’d probably doubt the safety of Richmond’s streets too. It would be interesting to find out what percentage of shooting and stabbing victims wind up at MCV. I rented a house in Union Hill in 1997, and moved back in 2004 when my husband and I bought our house here. Based on my brief time here in 1997, I really, really had… Read more »

Dan
Guest
Dan

Jake,
Physicians are required by law to report shootings and stabbings to police, so I very much doubt there are any going unreported.

Jake
Guest
Jake

Dan-I was referring to the media. Catch a clue!

Mark
Guest
Mark

John–At the risk of putting more work on your shoulders, would be interesting to see if the ratio of aggravated assaults (which the RPD set aside as a notable category) to homicides shows any more stability than your previous assault:homicide ratio did.

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James
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James

The Hill is safer, but still not safe enough. Shockoe Bottom has not been the same since the murders. I see way less people out there now.

anonymous
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anonymous

I think local crime UNDER reporting is a valid concern:

http://www.oregonhill.net/2010/06/20/laurel-street-stabbing-this-past-friday-night/

el
Guest
el

In being a regional paper, the T-D would have to post incident reports from Caroline to Dinwiddie and that would take up a chunk of the paper and a lot of resources. They *could* just do Richmond but that would just perpetuate the stereotype of not being able to get 10 feet into the city without being robbed and shot. Not to say they’re less important but, as a reader, I wouldn’t care if a woman stabbed another if they were acquainted. (I’m making assumptions on the Oregon Hill incident for an example.) Along with being notified when someone is… Read more »

el
Guest
el

Additionally, just because stabbing/gunshot/&c. victims are at MCV doesn’t mean the incident happened in Richmond. It means the wounds were severe enough for a locality to send them to a larger hospital. If they die at MCV from their wounds or if they go home, it’s an incident in their locality and RPD couldn’t care less about it.

john_m
Guest

Going with the lower number of 32 homicides in 2008, there were 3 months that year with no homicides: May, August, and December. There were incidents those months, but either the charges were withdrawn when declared to be self-defense, or the charge was listed as involuntary manslaughter. The revision gives us this: going back to at least 1980, Richmond has only had six months without any homicides. Each of these quiet months has come in the last 3 years, and 2 of them have come in 2010. The longest period with no homicides runs from Thursday, July 24, 2008, to… Read more »

James
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James

Why did the population spike in 1970?

paul h
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paul h

Back when the RTD did that report on murders in Richmond, I found a website that reported murders for Richmond and 7 surrounding counties. I can’t locate it now, but murders in Richmond exceeded all the surrounding counties combined. I’m thinking assaults and other crimes are much higher here also. This is a great report, truly, but the reputation Richmond has as being a dangerous place is not undeserved. Unquestionably things have improved, but murders in Shockoe Bottom, shootings and stabbings in the projects and the recent line of fire killing on Belvidere only comfirm in many people’s minds (mine… Read more »

steve
Guest
steve

My question to Jake is how long have you worked at MCV?? Just because you see people coming in with gunshot/stab wounds doesn’t mean it isn’t less than it has been in the past. What is the basis of YOUR comparison?? Were you working there at the height of the RVA violence? Is that your point of reference??

David Hathcock
Guest
David Hathcock

John is right. Richmond is a safe place to live…with a very few neighborhoods that are not safe. Neighborhood policing and the allocation of resources to trouble areas is working. If we could get illegal guns off the streets, the difference would be huge. The sad truth is that if you are middle or upper class, you have almost no chance of being a victim of violent crime. If you are poor, young, male, involved in drugs or frequent certain clubs, the risks are much greater.

buddy corbett
Guest
buddy corbett

john unfortunately you seem to be running into the “who are you gonna believe me or your lying eyes syndrome”. dont let it get you down. wrapping yourself in a blanket of ignorance is the only way to keep stupid thoughts warm.good work and thanks nfor digging so hard. if anybody else has conflicting data lets see it and YOUR bonafides. hey it might be a good time to develop some new habits.

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