Richmond continues to make gains in reducing most crimes, but a deadly summer contributed to an uptick in homicides, according to year-end statistics released by police Friday.
Violent crimes were down 14 percent in 2011 compared to the year before, including drops of more than 30 percent in armed robberies and carjackings.
The data was attached to an email sent by Police Chief Chris Magnus to city leaders and police brass Friday morning.
“The attached crime comparisons between 2010 (which also showed significant violent crime decreases) and 2011 are generally quite positive,” Magnus wrote. “Some of the biggest decreases involved reductions in Armed Robberies and Carjackings—very good news.”
The data revealed a year of quieter streets than in 2010. Attempted homicides were down 14 percent, and attempted robberies plunged 65 percent. 911 calls from the community reporting drug activity were down 46 percent, and “man with gun” calls were down 18 percent. Calls reporting neighborhood gunfire were down 13 percent.
But police officials acknowledged disappointment that criminal homicides rose in 2011 after a decade-low total in 2010. Twenty-six criminal homicides were recorded in 2011, up from 21 the year before.
“In the summer, there was an uptick of shooting and violence that really concerned us,” said Capt. Mark Gagan. “Fortunately, it did not persist.”
Seventeen of the 26 homicides occurred during the months of June, July and August as rival factions in central and North Richmond exchanged deadly drive-bys.
After Daryl Russell, 20, was shot and killed in broad daylight in front of children playing basketball at Nevin Park July 20, Chief Magnus, elected leaders and officials from the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office stood near the blood-stained site and announced a new joint gang task force. Russell’s brazen killing was part of a string of homicides that marred the summer.
“A war was breaking out,” Gagan said.
The tally of 26 criminal homicides does not include the violent shooting deaths of three other men in the city, all deemed non-criminal by the District Attorney’s Office because they were committed in self-defense. Five more deaths, all of young men slain in drive-bys in the unincorporated pocket of North Richmond, also do not count in the city’s total.
Property crime rates remained unchanged overall in 2011, but saw spikes in a few categories. Residential burglary and car break-ins were both up about 15 percent.
“We saw some troubling patterns of suspects breaking into homes during the day, while residents were at work, taking items like electronics and jewelry,” Gagan said.
Magnus also alluded to the ongoing challenges in his email.
“Property crime, while very slightly down, continues to be a challenge, particularly in regards to Residential Burglaries. While some of this is undoubtedly tied to the bad economy, we continue to believe low lighting levels in many of the hardest hit neighborhoods is a significant factor,” Magnus wrote. “We are pleased that our high profile efforts to reduce stolen vehicles … have helped bring this number down for the first time in several years (- 13%).”
The Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) are part of a nationwide, cooperative statistical effort of over 18,000 city, university and college, county, state, tribal, federal, and other law enforcement agencies. The goal is to generate and amass standardized crime data nationwide.