In Richmond, Va., most murderers never go to prison. It is even easier to get away with shooting at someone if the intended victims don’t die, says the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Only a handful of attempts on a Richmonder’s life result in anyone doing time, and in some of those cases the prison sentence is for a less serious offense, a Times-Dispatch review of arrest and court records from last year found. When someone shoots and doesn’t kill, the result can be volatile: The victim often wants revenge, and the shooter knows the victim is both a potential witness and a threat to his own life. “A shooting is a failed homicide,” said police Chief Andre Parker. “It’s like we’re living on the western frontier, with people gunning for each other.”
That’s not a situation you want in a town where roughly half the slayings aren’t solved, where people who have shot at one person aren’t hesitant to shoot at another, and where a squad of 24 detectives and six supervisors is responsible for solving 3,000 violent crimes a year, including homicides. Roughly one in 30 attempted murders and aggravated assaults involving firearms results in someone going to prison, a Times-Dispatch review of crime incident reports and court records for 2002 and 2003 showed. The reports show 81 arrests in 346 incidents last year, for an arrest rate of 23 percent. A Times-Dispatch analysis this year found about a third of homicide cases result in someone going to prison. Arrests are made in about half the cases.