Questions about guns and killing in the East End

12/05/2015 9:25 PM by

With gun violence on the national stage these days, my thoughts turn to the killings that recur in our community.

Over the last 10 years (Jan. 1, 2006 – Dec. 5, 2015), 441 people have been murdered in Richmond – the vast majority of them by being shot. Of these 441 people who were killed, 119 (26.9%) were killed in the East End of the city.

I have questions… What do we really know about this violence? Are there laws or programs that we should press our city to adopt that would directly impact the violence? Can it even be stopped?

Each killing has a ripple effect on our community. I taught at a school in the neighborhood for almost 10 years, and had a number of students whose father or uncle had been killed, or were killed during the school year. I’ve seen a depressingly high number of former students make the news for either being shot to death or shooting someone else to death. Whichever side of the gun they were on (and it’s almost always a gun), I can not help but think about the mothers, grandmothers, brothers and sisters that these young men left behind when they are killed or sentenced to prison.

I’ve got ready access to data on area killings going back to 2009. From then to now, at least 62 of the 70 killings in the East End were shootings. Every one of the multiple homicides was a shooting. It seems that in any given year, there will be a domestic incident that does not involve a gun – but every other homicide in the East End is a shooting.

Some facts from 2009-2015:

  • At least 10 of the 11 murders so far in 2015 were shootings
  • 3 of the 4 murders in 2014 were shootings
  • 8 of 10 murders in 2013 were shootings
  • 8 of 9 murders in 2012 were shootings
  • 11 of 13 murders in 2011 were shootings
  • 14 of 14 murders in 2010 were shootings
  • 8 of 9 murders in 2009 were shootings
  • Over this time period, two people killed someone with a gun in self-defense (not included in the 70 killings specified above)

There is a geography and a demographic associated with the violence in our community. There is a sadness, but no surprise, when a young black man shoots another young black man to death on Redd Street or Coalter Street. The same census tracts with the highest unemployment, with the highest percentage of children – these are where shooting deaths happen year after year. If we can predict this, what can we do to make it better?

Is the problem guns? Poverty? Lack of job opportunity? Are the guns merely the tool or more like gasoline on a fire?

While the level of violence in the community is way down from the mid-1990s heyday, the number of killings in our community seems to have effectivly plateaued to an average near 11 per year since the implementation of sector policing in 2005 and the big drop in killings after 2006. What can be done to push this number even lower?

I’ve some questions about the murder guns that I’d love to have answers for, but have no idea where to look, if this information is even recorded anywhere:

  • Of the fatal shootings over the past 6 years up here, how many were with illegal guns?
  • What types of guns were used in the killings?
  • How many of the victims had a gun on them when they were themselves killed?

Anybody got a line on any of this?




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