Tag Archives: Richmond Crime

The Power of Social Media: Union Hill Style

Rachel DePompa – bio | email

The folks in Union Hill started an interesting campaign on Twitter three months ago. They began calling out drug dealers in the neighborhood to Richmond Police via the popular social medium. As a result, they were also calling out Richmond Police for not paying enough attention to their neighborhood. The messages that hit the internet were often colorful and frankly, honest.

Here are a few examples of the tweets….

“Black SUV at 900 block of 24th owned by known dealer.”

“Known dealer hanging out at the corner of 24th/M White shirt/white jeans/white hat.”

” Lots of car and foot traffic to the green/white crack house near 24th/M. Come back and visit again today.”

 They neighbors sharing this twitter account have asked to remain anonymous, as it’s dangerous to be calling out illegal activity. It could be the first known twitter campaign in the world to take on drug dealers…. I can’t find another like it through searches on twitter, but who knows?

About 45 days into the campaign, Richmond Police and its chief did a walk through of the  neighborhood. Unfortunately, police denied it had anything to do with the twitter campaign. I know for a fact, police were well aware of it, as was Richmond Crimesolvers.  That organization actively began planning ways to reach out and help the residents in Union Hill with their problem. 

Either way, it appears Richmond Police have stepped up their presence and it seems to be making a difference. The anonymous tweeters posted this message today…. “Richmond Police we can’t say it enough, your noticeably increased presence is appreciated and effective!”

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Crazy Arrest and other Richmond Business…

Rachel DePompa – bio | email  

Sorry for the gap between posts, but May sweeps is fast approaching and I’m working on several special stories for you guys. Stay tuned!

Arrested While Going to Court:

I’ll never, ever, ever understand why someone going to court would bring something illegal. You KNOW you are going before a judge AND that you have to pass through metal detectors and sheriff’s deputies. YOU KNOW THIS! I’ll never forgot when I worked for the ABC station in little Harrisonburg, Virginia. I was standing in line, waiting to go through security and into the courthouse. The deputies asked the man in front of me to empty his pockets before he went through the metal detector. The man takes a bag of pot out of his pocket and sets it on the deputy’s tray. (ARE YOU KIDDING ME????) The man was arrested on the spot. I was a one-man-band reporter at the time. Meaning, I had a camera with me and got the whole thing on tape for the evening news.

It’s happened here in Richmond. Here’s an excerpt from a press release we got from the Richmond Sheriff’s Office…. 

On Friday, April 16, 2010, at 11:50 a.m., LaRhonda A. Richardson, age 21, was scheduled to appear in Richmond General District Court Traffic Division for an unrelated traffic offense. After receiving initial clearance to enter the courthouse, she underwent a routine pat down for weapons.  It was then discovered that Ms. Richardson had drugs hidden in her right front pants pocket.

She was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana. Please remember if you are going to court to see a judge…. Don’t do anything illegal on your way through the front door.

New City Attorney:

Richmond’s new city Attorney will be sworn in on Monday May 3rd. The City Council has appointed Allen L. Jackson to the job. Jackson comes to Richmond from Newport News. Jackson had worked in the Newport News city attorney’s office since 1988. The swearing-in will happen at City Hall in the city clerk’s office at 10:00 am.

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Filed under Covering Court, Crime

Excuse me… You’re indicted

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa – bio | email 

So, I was in the awkward and unenviable position today to tell a woman she’s been indicted by a grand jury in the death of a little boy. I found out around 9:10 this morning that a grand jury had indicted the owner of the Yellow Brick Road Day Care on felony child neglect. It also upgraded the charge against the owner’s son to involuntary manslaughter. (The day care is where 13 month old Andrew Johnson was accidentally left in a van for 7 hours in 84 degree weather.) 

Upon learning of the indictments, I immediately set out for the day care. I knew I was the only reporter who had a lead on this story and I quickly realized Valerot Whitlow probably did not know she was now charged with a crime. (I was right) So, I decided to call her cell. She answered and I went for it… “I’m sorry, but I have bad news for you.  Valerot but you’ve been indicted by a grand jury for felony child neglect.” Now, It’s my job to get reaction and I hated having to tell her, but I also knew I had a responsibility to find out what was going on. Valerot was shocked and quickly got off the phone to call her attorney. I found out a few hours later that she’d turned herself into Richmond Police to be processed. This is such a tough story all around. You have a darling little boy that is gone and a tragic accident. Tough day. Tough choices. We’ll be following this case closely in the courts.  

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Sick of Sad Stories

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa – bio | email 

Sorry for the delay but I was enjoying the long holiday weekend. Coming back to work is never fun after a long break, but this time it was especially difficult. It appears I’m destined to cover sad and unusual deaths this week. Yesterday, Eric Driver was indicted on a second degree murder charge. He’s the college student who shot and killed a man breaking into his girlfriend’s car. We went back to Union Hill Monday to the intersection where the shooting happened. Folks in the neighborhood have very strong opinions on his indictment. And there seems to be no middle ground here either. People either believe Driver was in the right or they don’t.  It’s going to be interesting to see what a jury of his peers decides if this case gets that far.

Today I have the misfortune of reporting on a terrible tragedy. A 13 month old boy was left in his day care van and died. The driver’s been charged with felony child neglect. I can’t imagine what the little boy’s family is going through. They trusted the facility to care for their son. And then to think of the man who left the child in the van. He must be heartbroken. I covered a story like this when I worked in Blacksburg, VA. A mother thought she had dropped her child off at daycare and went to work. She never took the child inside and when she returned to her car after work, her child was dead in the back seat. So terrible. Sometimes the bad news just gets to you. Hoping for a much lighter day tomorrow.

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New Crime Wave, New Hire, Old Problem

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa – bio | email 

New Crime Wave: When Kitchen Utensils Go Bad…

So, I have to call Richmond Police today to ask about an assault case. Two women fought in North Richmond. One had a frying pan, the other? A steak knife. This comes one week after a man was beaten with a meat tenderizer. Too many cooks in the kitchen? (Thank you! Thank you! I’ll be here all night taking requests.)

New Hire:

Mayor Dwight Jones is certainly helping the city’s employment rate this week. He’s made another hire. This time for Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of Economic and Community Development. He’s hired Peter Chapman who starts July 13th. Chapman comes to Richmond from Denver, Colorado where he serves as the director of a national community development organization.

Old problem:

Baseball, baseball baseball. I hear the city could announce a new team in three weeks. There’s also a new push to renovate The Diamond. Opening Day Partners out of Maryland (Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson and businessman Peter Kirk) have a 28 million dollar plan to upgrade the facility and keep it open year round with other events. The Richmond Metropolitan Authority (which controls The Diamond) has stopped short of endorsing the plan but says it would be a good way to make a new team successful on the Boulevard.  Old problem, same discussion, nothing new here.  

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Filed under Baseball, Crime, Dwight Jones

My Unexpected Conversation With a Carjacking Survivor

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa – bio | email 

As reporters, we do A LOT of waiting. Today I was waiting for information from police on a carjacking in South Richmond. My photographer, David Brakke and I, were tired of sitting in the office and decided to scope out the scene of the crime ourselves. We got some video and started asking people in the neighborhood if they’d heard about a horrible incident last night. Most of the neighbors had no idea and were shocked. Two women were getting in a car when I stopped them to ask if they too had heard about this terrible crime. One of the woman looked me in the eyes and said, “Yes, I know about it. It happened to my friend.” She pointed to a timid woman sitting in the car beside her. I was shocked. And I immediately felt horrible for asking her if she knew about it. People often accuse the media of being insensitive. I can assure you, that is never my intention. And, this woman was gracious and wanted to tell me what happened.

She told me about parking her car and getting out when a man with a gun forced her back inside. She cried while explaining how this man threatened to kill her over and over for three hours. She cried when she thought about how she almost died over $40. She told me how she had seen stories like this on the news and read about in the papers, but never thought it could happen to her. She told me how she only looked at her assailant twice because he threatened to shoot her if she turned her head. She drove and drove and drove… in circles, in alleys. He made her call friends and beg for money to save her life. Eventually, the car was almost out of gas and he let her out. But not without taking her identification and cell phone. He threatened to come back and kill her if she called police. He threatened her family. And she wanted me to share this story with you. She wants apartment managers to take better care of lighting the parking lots. She wants you to be aware of your surroundings when you are getting out of your car. She never wants this to happen to anyone else.

I talk to a lot of people in this business and I’ve seen a lot of horrible things. And I can say with certainty tonight, she is one of the bravest I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

**Side note** According to Richmond Police crime is actually down 22 percent in the 3rd precinct. Last week, they made an arrest in 6 robberies and 2 attempted robberies. If you have any information on this crime you think might help police give them a call at CrimeStoppers. 804-780-1000

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Breaking Down Richmond’s Murder Rate

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa – bio | email 

As of now, we stand at 27 homicides for the year. Another shooting is currently under investigation and we’re awaiting word as to whether the death of a women in the Museum District last week is a homicide. Last year we had 32 murders… A 37 year low. Once you reach a record low, there is inevitably no where to go but back up. That fact, coupled with the economy means crimes of desperation are on the rise. We’ve seen a string of convenience store robbers in the past week, where the suspects opened fire. A clerk was killed, another was shot six times, but is expected to survive. I spoke with Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring at length today. He, and Police Chief Bryan Norwood say the economy is a factor. Drug activity is also soaring again. There are a lot of reasons contributing to a rise in the rate, but you have to also step back and look at the bigger picture. Even 30 or 50 murders this year is far less than the 80 to 90 we averaged just 10 years ago or the 180 a few years prior to that. Last year may have been an anomaly, but it’s too soon to start pointing the finger at local agencies or people in new jobs. We need to stay vigilant as a community and watch out for our neighbors.

Successes so far this year:

Commercial Burglaries- down 49%

Commercial Robberies- down 47%

Aggravated Assaults with Firearm- down 26%

Purse Snatching- down 43%

Crime to watch so far this year:

Individual Robberies- up 10%

Theft from Buildings- up 31%

Theft from Motor Vehicle- up 53%

 

 

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