Not too long ago, Richmond, Va., the capital of the Confederacy, was better known as a murder capital, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. Richmond, a city of about 200,000, has gone a long way toward shedding that designation thanks to a confluence of factors, including an activist mayor, a new law enforcement team, a rapidly gentrifying downtown, and, perhaps most significant, citizen involvement. The Inquirer calls it “the anti-“no snitchin’ ” campaign: a vastly increased willingness among residents to provide information about crimes and suspects.” “Before, citizens had a lack of trust in the police, or did not feel it warranted their participation. Now it’s a totally different environment,” said Mark Holmberg, a local television commentator.
“As residents, we may be more willing, because there comes a place and time when you say enough is enough,” said Valerie Burrell-Muhammad, a family-involvement consultant. “That’s the prevailing attitude in Richmond now.” Two years ago, Police Chief Rodney Monroe arrived, hired by a new mayor, L. Douglas Wilder, Virginia’s first African American governor. Monroe, formerly police chief in Macon, Ga., served for 22 years as assistant chief in Washington, D.C. Richmond has had seven homicides this year, compared with 29 a year ago. Monroe is hoping to keep the murder count below 80; last year, there were 81. Monroe made two crucial changes: “sector policing,” in which a lieutenant and a squad were responsible for a sector of the city; and regular “problem-solving” sessions with residents, asking them about their crime issues and trying to build trust.