City announces first phase of gun violence prevention efforts
Mayor announces community safety coordinator and partnership to distribute $1M in community grants
Richmond, VA — – Mayor Levar M. Stoney today announced several important steps to protect city residents by addressing and preventing gun violence.
““Nothing is more important than the public health and public safety of our residents,” the mayor said. “Gun violence is a decades old issue that has afflicted cities across the country and has only been made worse by the pandemic. We’re taking these steps because our hearts break each time we hear about the loss of life and the trauma caused by gun violence, and NO mother should have to bury her child because we haven’t done enough.”
The city has hired its first Community Safety Coordinator, Samuel Brown. The Community Safety Coordinator (CSC), a recommendation of the Task Force to Reimagine Public Safety and supported by the Gun Violence Prevention Working Group and, will be the primary point person within the city administration for issues involving gun violence.
This Community Safety Coordinator will focus on the fundamentals of the city’s Gun Violence Prevention Framework, including engagement, prevention, intervention, training, and supportive services for victims as well as perpetrators of gun violence. The CSC will also host community conversations and focus groups that involve community members in steps toward halting violence in our communities.
Reggie Gordon, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Human Services, hailed the hiring of Mr. Brown, who grew up in Richmond and holds degrees from Virginia Union and Virginia State University.
“Samuel has made a personal and professional commitment to find solutions so that Richmond, Richmond’s children, Richmond’s families can exhale, breathe free and have a restored sense of calm and security,” Gordon said of Brown , who previously worked at the Peter Paul Development Center before joining the City of Richmond in the Human Services Portfolio.
“Samuel has been a teacher and a coach, and is ready to build upon the work that has been done and bring myriad stakeholders together to grow solutions that make our city safer.”
Mayor Stoney also announced the City will partner with the nonprofit community organization NextUp to distribute $1 million in funding for community led programs for children and families. Based on CDC guidance, prevention efforts will focus on after-school programming, parenting support, mental health support for kids, tutoring and mentorships.
NextUp will not be the sole recipient of these funds. Rather, it will serve as the fiscal agent to make grants to grassroots and community organizations and provide quality programming and training so that those closest to impacted communities can have resources to disrupt the cycle of violence.
“Communities benefit when children and their families have access to quality programs right in their neighborhoods,” said Barbara Sipe, President and CEO of NextUp. “Richmond has so many amazing providers and programs doing exceptional work, and NextUp looks forward to increasing access to important programs that build community strength and socio-emotional wellness for our youth.”
Richmond Police Department Chief Gerald Smith also discussed the role of RPD’s civilian “Violence Interrupters” in helping to deescalate conflict and be credible, trusted community voices to help residents connect to support systems instead of violence.
“This evidence-based intervention leverages multiple sectors of our community to provide a holistic approach for those who are most at risk of perpetrating or being victimized by violence,” said Chief Smith. “The violence interrupters draw upon lived experiences to help deescalate and mediate conflicts, diffuse tensions and act as peer counselors. They are of the community and for the community.”
The $1.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPS) funding targeted specifically for gun violence prevention is only one component of the city’s investment in keeping communities safer. Other investments include:
- $2M in ARPA for childcare and parental support
- $1.5M in ARPA for initiatives out of the Office of Community Wealth Building
- $ 500,000 to the Richmond City Health District for the establishment of a trauma response network
- $300,000 from the Gang Violence Assessment grant from DCJS
- $500,000 from DCJS for ”We Matter RVA” program
“These steps signify progress in implementation of our framework, and while no one program or strategy is a panacea that will cure this decades-old issue overnight, it’s our firm belief that the solution that’s right for Richmond relies on a holistic, community-based approach,” the Mayor said. “One that takes into account the roles housing, transit, jobs and social supports play in healthier families and safer streets. One that builds trust from the ground up through collaboration and cooperation.”
The mayor also thanked the many community members and organizations that have played a role in working to prevent gun violence in the city, including Sheryl Garland, Torey Edmonds and Dr. Michel Aboutanos of the VCU Health System, and the staff of the Richmond City Health District, as well as the hundreds of city first responders who show up when the call for help goes out.
And the mayor made a special mention of the unsung heroes who go out of their way to protect their communities and work to resolve conflict and prevent violence, calling it a “team effort” that needs everyone to be involved.
“Somewhere in Richmond, right now, someone, some young man or woman, is alive due to a mentor, a coach, a pastor, a neighbor a big brother or big sister who intervened just at the right moment to help that young person divert from situations that would have placed their life in jeopardy,” the mayor said.
“To you unsung, unknown, angels, guardians, parents, teachers who have saved the life of a youth that you know, I say, ‘Thank you.’ We all thank you.”