Following a spate of violent crime, Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney said during a Thursday press conference that the department can not “arrest our way out” of the situation and called on the community to come together to find solutions.
Held both at City Hall and virtually, the press conference was scheduled following requests for more information from news outlets about a series of violent crimes that has plagued the city since October.
Brackney opened by saying how poverty and exclusion from educational, institutional and living wage opportunities can be drivers of community violence.
The police are limited in how they can respond, Brackney said, and less-reactive solutions are needed to curb future violent crime.
“I’m calling on all individuals, all organizations who called for change since 2017, to get involved,” she said. “I’m calling on community advocates, influencers, organizers to go beyond Twitter or Instagram, Facebook, your news interviews, podcasts or social media mediums to leverage your collective resources.”
In Charlottesville, as in most other communities, the response to violence is often after the fact, Brackney said, and until people are personally affected, their willingness to get involved is limited to little more than sending an email or posting something online.
With budget season approaching, Brackney suggested members of the community could use that process to address some of the drivers of violence.
“Budgets are driven by the things that we say that we care about, and if there’s this level of violence in our community, the underlying drivers are our educational systems or the decay in our social support systems and structures,” she said. “Those are the reasons that [people are] often violent. However, that does not mean that we tolerate that type of violence in this community, nor should it be condoned.”
Assistant Police Chief Jim Mooney also spoke during the press conference, sharing statistics that shed light on the increase in violent crime.
According to Mooney, the city police responded to 195 calls for shots fired last year. Of those, about 122 had evidence that shots were in fact fired, as shell casings or a victim were found. Additionally, 2020 saw four homicides, three of which have resulted in arrests, and 20 aggravated assaults.
2021 has not started out any better, Mooney said, referencing several shooting incidents, including one Monday in the middle of northbound Emmet Street near Hydraulic Road that resulted in the arrest of three men from Columbus, Georgia.
On Tuesday, “we had two incidents where apartment buildings were hit, and not just one apartment, multiple apartments,” he said. “In one of those apartments, a woman lay in her bed and a bullet traveled right through her mattress and another woman was struck in the forehead. These are innocent victims that have nothing to do with whatever is causing this, and it has to end.”
The number of guns that city police took possession of in 2020 approached triple digits, Mooney said, but he declined to weigh in on whether state legislation could be a solution to the proliferation of firearms.
Given the lack of information on the recent perpetrators’ backgrounds, Brackney said there was no significant single common denominator between the incidents.
“If I’m a victim, do I really care about what they all have in common?” she said. “What we should be solving is how we all got to this point in the first place, and that common denominator is what I explained: historical, institutional, economic exclusion of educational opportunities and living wages.”