Police Credit Faith Community For Helping to Reduce Violence

By Chief Chris Magnus
Richmond Police Department

Left to right: Chief Chris Magnus, Deputy Chief Allwyn Brown, Mrs. Sabrina Saunders, Community Organizer and Captain Mark Gagan. Photo by Joe L. Fisher, BAPAC.

On Saturday, February 19th, I had the privilege of meeting with close to 50 leaders from Richmond’s faith community at the Richmond Police Department.  A diverse group of clergy, faith-based community organizations, community organizers, and civic leaders was assembled to discuss some of the many activities and projects underway to reduce violence in our city.
This meeting was an opportunity for those in attendance to hear about various faith-based endeavors and City government initiatives related to crime and violence reduction.  Violent crime was down 10% last year in Richmond and is down 30% so far this year.   Based on these successes, I felt now was the time to redouble our efforts towards partnering with the faith-based community.
I spoke to the group about the Police Department’s COMPSTAT program, which uses daily crime data to track where and what kind of crime is taking place in the City.  COMPSTAT allows us to focus on specific crime trends and locations that merit extra attention or resources.  To best use COMPSTAT data, the Department assigns a Captain, several other command staff, and a group of officers to each of the City’s three geographic districts (North, Central, and South).  These personnel are responsible for using this data to problem-solve with residents and provide the best possible policing services within each neighborhood.  The Department’s command staff then come together for monthly COMPSTAT meetings to share information, discuss how we’re doing, and plan future crime-reduction strategies.
I told the group of two other ways RPD is working to reduce gun violence.  The first involves making gun crimes our top departmental priority.  The Police Department is coordinating with the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office to assure that individuals who commit shootings and other crimes while armed are arrested and prosecuted.  We even have a special Gun Crimes D.A. with an office at the Police Department who works closely with our officers and detectives to prepare cases for prosecution.  In January, for example, 10 of the 10 gun cases submitted by RPD officers were filed for prosecution.  That’s significant progress!
A second initiative to reduce gun violence is the new “Project Ceasefire” program.  The Police Department is working collaboratively with the Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS) and several other local non-profit organizations on this program, which was recently funded in part through a grant from the State.  The idea behind “Ceasefire” is to conduct “call-ins” involving individuals known to be involved in violence and gang activity.  The Police Department, D.A.’s Office, U.S. Attorney, parole authorities and others use these “call-in” meetings to clearly communicate to these individuals—typically young men in their late teens and 20s–what the serious consequences will be if they continue their involvement in crime.   Representatives from ONS, community groups, and local clergy (among others) are also involved in presenting alternatives and options to these young men during the “call-ins” so they can choose other paths that lead them away from crime.  Services and resources that are offered can include job preparedness training, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, counseling, faith-based intervention, and more.
Deputy Chief Allwyn Brown described the RPD’s youth-related programs which includes our new Youth Services Division, the City’s new “Daytime Curfew” initiative (designed to get truant youth off the streets and back in school), as well as the Department’s juvenile diversion program—which focuses on 14 and 15 year-old first-time offenders and seeks to minimize youth involvement in the formal juvenile justice system.  Richmond Police Activities League (RPAL) Director Larry Lewis presented the many services they provide.
Devone Boggan, Director of the Office of Neighborhood Safety spoke about gun violence decreasing in our community as a result of young “shooters” making better decisions and choosing not to engage in retaliatory behavior.  He emphasized the importance the faith community plays in influencing these decisions and commended everyone present for their willingness to work together.
I believe this meeting was a very positive step in what I look forward to as an ongoing dialogue with the faith community.  It is clear Richmond’s faith leaders have the ability to reach those at greatest risk for committing or being impacted by violence.  It is also exciting to see the mentoring work, the outreach, and the many kinds of direct services being provided to those who need it the most by our faith community partners.
The Richmond Police Department wants to be a good resource for, and supporter of, our local faith leadership.  No one church, community group, organization, or governmental entity can successfully make Richmond a safer and healthier city acting alone.  Partnerships and collaborations are  important.  I believe that by sharing information, coordinating with each other, and working together, we will continue to see violent crime reduced in our community.  If you, your church, or an organization you are a part of is interested in working with us, please do not hesitate to contact me at (510)621-1802 or by e-mailing me at cmagnus@richmondpd.net.