Detectives have worked hard to gain the confidence of potential witnesses by assuring that police will do all they can to protect them if they come forward. The high homicide arrest rate is a turnaround from 12 years ago, when Richmond was the nation’s murder capital because of its high rate of killings per capita.
Of 50,000 murders in major U.S. cities since 2007, the majority — more than 26,000 — have never resulted in an arrest, the Washington Post reports. In many, if not most, of the unsolved cases, police said investigators believe they know the killer’s identity but can’t persuade potential witnesses to cooperate. While many major police departments have struggled with low homicide arrest rates, Richmond, Va., police are an few exceptions. Officers there have the highest homicide arrest rate of 50 major cities surveyed, having made an arrest in 351 of 495 homicides — more than 70 percent of cases — since 2007. That outcome, police officials said, is the result of persistent community outreach that has helped encourage witnesses to cooperate.
“If I’m in the city, I’m at every scene,” said Chief Alfred Durham, who has led Richmond’s department since early 2015. “People in the community need to see members of our command staff engaging and doing everything possible to close each case. . . . We’re out there building relationships.” Detectives have worked hard to gain the confidence of potential witnesses by assuring that police will do all they can to protect them if they come forward. The high homicide arrest rate is a turnaround from 12 years ago, when Richmond was considered the nation’s murder capital because of its high rate of killings per capita. Successive chiefs have overhauled the department, violence has fallen, and arrest rates have soared. Richmond police acknowledge that they do not face the same challenges as their counterparts in other cities: Violent crime in Richmond has been far less that in the nation’s deadliest cities. While detectives in Baltimore, Detroit and Philadelphia field a homicide a day, Richmond has one per week. Unlike Chicago or New Orleans, Richmond police grapple with little gang violence. They have had success solving cases even in the city’s most violent and impoverished neighborhoods.