While southern Virginia gets the national spotlight by hosting trials of the Washington, D.C., snipers suspects, a lesser known story is that suburban Henrico County, Va., is having its own homicide problem. The county has recorded 21 murders already this year, one short of the 1997 record of 22.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch says that county leaders are crossing their fingers that this year’s homicide count is an aberration. Henrico, the state’s fourth-largest locality, had only 10 killings last year. Said Henrico Police Chief Henry W. Stanley Jr., “But [this year’s toll] does worry us. It’s very troublesome.”
“The alarm bells are ringing,” County Manager Virgil R. Hazelett Jr. said.
Stanley says there’s no definitive explanation. Consequently, he said, there’s not a great deal police can do to stop or slow the killings. Many are domestic-related. The uncertain economy and the harmful effect it can have on individuals, families and relationships may be contributing to the death toll, Stanley said.
County leaders have downplayed the notion that nearby Richmond’s spike in homicides and violent crime is having a “spillover” effect in Henrico.
Frank J. Thornton, Fairfield’s representative on the Henrico Board of Supervisors, said he’s troubled by the “massive increase” in the county’s homicide count. “I think it’s a combination of things” that have contributed, he said, citing the economy, the county’s growing population, social ills and the prevalence of illegal drugs.