Profile No. 4

Comprehensive Homicide Initiative -- Richmond, CA

Program Type or Federal Program Source:
A program of comprehensive gun violence reduction strategies; Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Program Goal:
To provide a coordinated focus for all programs and practices designed to address homicide in Richmond through community-based intervention strategies and targeted enforcement strategies.

Specific Groups Targeted by the Strategy:
Youth and adults who commit violent crime.

Geographical Area Targeted by the Strategy:
Richmond, CA, and western Contra Costa County.

Evaluated by:
Department of Criminal Justice, Temple University.

Contact Information:
Captain Doug Seiberling
Richmond Police Department
401 27th Street
Richmond, CA 94804
Phone: 510­620­6611

James J. Fyfe
Temple University
Department of Criminal Justice
Philadelphia, PA 19122
Phone: 215­204­1670

Years of Operation:

One of the communities of the East Bay Public Safety Corridor Partnership (EBPSCP), Richmond, CA, has implemented a comprehensive approach to reducing violent crime both in collaboration with the other EBPSCP communities and on its own (see profile 5). The results of its efforts dramatically illustrate the impact that a comprehensive, multijurisdiction strategy can make on crime reduction.

Drug- and gang-related violence in Richmond, CA, increased markedly throughout the 1980's. By 1991, the city's all-time high of 62 homicides, among a population of 98,000, was 7 times the national average. The portion of these homicides that were drug- or gang-related increased from 5 percent to 55 percent between 1989 and 1991. Shots fired increased 51 percent, from 1,687 calls in 1990 to 2,640 calls by 1992. In 1992, Richmond Police responded to a 911 emergency call every 7 minutes.

To combat the problem, Richmond implemented a communitywide murder reduction strategy, based on the recommendations of the 1992 International Association of Chiefs of Police Murder in America Summit Study. Elements of this strategy included (1) intervening against all forms of violence as early as possible; (2) using technology to improve clearances; (3) intensifying community policing and murder-specific problem-solving strategies; (4) creating an advisory committee to assist with murder reduction; (5) involving all segments of the community in violence prevention and control; (6) intensifying alcohol consumption reduction programs; (7) providing cash and other incentives to citizens for information on violent crimes and crimes involving guns; (8) providing safe havens for youth after normal school hours; (9) training police officers to recognize and respond to different kinds of violence, including domestic violence; and (10) becoming involved in schools to reduce violence and violent behaviors.

Richmond received support in implementing these strategies from EBPSCP (see profile 5). Financial support for Richmond's initiatives came from a State of California police-hiring supplement, a Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) grant to implement the Comprehensive Homicide Initiative Project, an Office of Community Oriented Policing (COPS) grant, and a number of other smaller grants. Over the 5-year period 1993­98, the grants totaled $1.7 million.

Enforcement-based strategies

The Richmond Police Department adopted the following investigative and enforcement strategies: (1) developed an intensified team approach to obtain information on high-profile homicides; (2) obtained FBI assistance in reviewing old and unsolved ("cold") homicide cases; (3) obtained DEA, FBI, and California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement assistance in targeting violence-prone members of the drug culture; (4) assigned an evidence specialist to the Richmond Police Department's detective bureau; and (5) improved information sharing and technology within the department.

Homicide cases that can be closed through quick and intensive information-gathering efforts are systematically identified. However, different protocols are used to gather intelligence in cases involving "set-on-set" gang or turf-related murders (in which retaliatory violence is likely and possibly preventable) and in cases that have drawn extraordinary public attention. To investigate gang-related homicides and prevent or interrupt reciprocal violence, the department maintains extensive up-to-date information on gang members, their activities, and their disputes. Increased surveillance of gang members can lead to seizures of guns and drugs and to arrests prior to outbreaks of firearm violence. Seizures of vehicles on traffic or license violations also have been useful in preventing retaliatory drive-by shootings, because vehicle seizures decrease the mobility of gang members.

In its efforts to respond faster and more proactively to homicides and other gang- and drug-related crime in the city, police also have participated in a number of interagency task forces. The Metro DEA Team is a combined force of uniformed police officers and DEA agents who target drug dealers in hotspot areas. Using its information resources, the U.S. Marshals Task Force helps the Richmond police to identify fugitives. WestNet (the West Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Team), which is headed by the State's Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, also assists Richmond police in targeting drug trafficking in the city.

Public housing initiative

In cooperation with the Richmond Housing Authority, a model lease agreement was created requiring tenants to avoid involvement with drugs and crime or risk eviction. Housing code enforcement and restraining orders have been used to prevent drug dealers and gang members from frequenting various housing developments. Renovations of buildings, removal of abandoned vehicles, and tenant evictions also are used. As of December 1997, Richmond Police Department drug elimination officers had issued 139 citations, made 74 arrests, towed 33 vehicles, written 71 reports, and evicted 1 drug dealer from a notorious public housing development.

Community-based collaboration and mobilization strategies

The police department sought to develop new relationships with the community through use of the 30 neighborhood councils that have been in existence since the 1960's. Not only have police taken steps to keep community citizens better informed, they have turned to the community to find innovative solutions to crime and violence. Activities include a communitywide survey of residents living in an area targeted for violence-reduction efforts. Seventy-two percent of residents in the area said that they, or someone they knew, had been a victim of violent crime. When working with adults and juveniles in collaborative efforts to reduce violence, these residents called for a higher police presence.

High-risk youth intervention and prevention strategies

A major focus of Richmond's efforts is to target high-risk youth through several prevention and intervention programs. Twenty-three police officers have been assigned to the Richmond Police Department's Adopt-a-School Program. Officers meet with children, faculty, and parents on a monthly basis to discuss school safety issues and to plan solutions and strategies. Police have worked closely with school officials to change school classroom environments that exacerbate the formation of racially based gangs. In addition, officers have provided mentoring and tutoring to high-risk youth identified in the school.

Through the Probation Officers-On-Campus Program, the Contra Costa County Probation Department assigns resident juvenile probation officers to two Richmond high schools. Richmond police work with these probation officers on a regular basis to address crimes that may occur on school property. The probation officers check daily on probationers' school attendance and monitor their activities to keep them in school. Probation/parole officers also go out on patrol with police officers to provide closer surveillance of identified offenders.

Truancy reduction

Operation "Stay in School" Truancy Recovery Program, is a cooperative effort with the Contra Costa Unified School District. In 1995, more than 16 percent of the school population was recorded as chronically truant. A truancy study in 1997 revealed that much of the crime being committed in the neighborhoods surrounding schools was being caused by chronic truants. To combat the problem, officers conduct truancy roundups, returning youth to school or to a specialized SWAT (School Welfare and Attendance Team) office. Between 1996 and 1998, more than 1,000 youth were returned to school or referred to other specialized services. For a more detailed description of this program, see profile 57.

Summer youth academy

In October 1996, the Richmond Police Department joined with the San Pablo Police Department and the El Cerrito Police Department to establish and operate a youth academy. The youth academy provides a constructive, educational experience for local youth, teaching them alternatives to life on the street while increasing their interest in police and community service careers. Among the issues covered during the academy's 12-week program are community oriented policing, criminal law, firearm safety, defensive tactics, crime scene investigations, hostage situations, and drug and alcohol awareness.

Impact of the comprehensive homicide initiative

The city of Richmond has experienced spectacular reductions in serious crime as a result of their comprehensive homicide reduction initiatives. Aggravated assaults dropped 40 percent from 1,763 incidences in 1993 to 1,056 incidences in 1997 and robberies dropped from 990 incidences in 1993 to 735 in 1994 and continue to decline. There were 525 incidences in 1997, a drop of 47 percent from 1993. The number of homicides also dropped from a high of 62 in 1992 and 52 in 1993 to 26 in 1995, a drop of 58 percent. This dramatic decrease in violent crime cannot be directly attributed to any single strategy; it is likely the cumulative result of Richmond's comprehensive approach to crime.

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