Jul 28, 2015
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After reporting a public safety notice by the Richmond Police Department on Saturday warning of an alarming increase in armed robberies, several readers asked us to be more specific about where the crimes have been occurring.

Everywhere, unfortunately.

Richmond police spokesperson Sgt. Nicole Abetkov advised us to view data on crimemapping.com, where it shows the dates and locations of 26 robberies throughout the city since July 1  (we screen-grabbed the image above from the web page exhibiting only robbery incidents).

While Richmond police reportedly update crime reports into the mapping software daily, Abetkov says, all incidents are not always immediately reflected for various reasons, such as the timing of their reporting. For example, the mapping software shows that one robbery occurred on Thursday, when in fact police say there were five.

But police have offered other, more concrete figures. On Monday, the department reported that the city saw 27 more armed robberies from Jan. 1 through the end of June than during the same period last year, a 26-percent increase. Overall, property and violent crimes increased by 16-percent for the first half-year (In this July 17 post, Police Chief Chris Magnus and Capt. Mark Gagan offered possible reasons for the uptick.).

Armed robberies have been particularly alarming, police said, as they are happening day and night with few neighborhoods being spared.

“We have people being affected across the entire city,” Abetkov said. “It can happen anywhere.”

Police are offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a group of men believed to be responsible for several of the robberies. The suspects, believed to be in their 20s or 30s, often work in pairs and wear hoodies or other similar clothing to hide their faces, police said.

Residents are also being asked to do their part to prevent the incidents. They are encouraged to be aware of their surroundings, report suspicious activity, and are asked to refrain from becoming distracted with devices such as smartphones, Abetkov said.

“Victims have been approached who are walking and talking on their cell phones, entering and exiting vehicles, and entering their homes,” police said in a Facebook post. “Often the suspects approach victims from behind. In some cases, iPhones were taken.”

The department has also shared this information on how it is responding to the robbery uptick, and more education on how residents can avoid becoming a victim.

What RPD is doing about these robberies:
• Carefully tracking the location, suspect information, and method involved (“M.O.”) for each robbery so we can provide the best crime analysis information for our beat officers, supervisors, and detectives (much of this information is also available to the public through the crime-map info linked to our website at www.richmondpd.net );
• Assigning additional officers with the resources we have available to areas most impacted by the robberies;
• Sharing information and working together with our law enforcement partners in nearby communities, as well as with our federal partners;
• Working closely with federal agents from the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) joining local/federal resources to identify and arrest suspects;
• Utilizing CCTV resources, private cameras, and other technology to gather leads on possible suspects;
• Offering rewards of $25,000 or more for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those committing these robberies. If you have any information regarding these crimes, please contact Detective Rivera at frivera@richmondpd.net or (510) 621-1755;
• Implementing a Park Ranger program of young adults who can help observe and report suspicious activity along the Greenway and in other parks around the city. This program is in its developmental stage, so while it holds strong potential, it will not be up and running for several months. We are also hiring a number of new cadets (generally college-age young people who attend school while working part-time at the PD) who can assist with various crime prevention related activities;
• Actively promoting community awareness and crime prevention efforts through efforts like the upcoming National Night Out on Aug. 4th and the Safe Cities Community Crime Expo (by the Civic Center) on Aug. 22nd.

How residents can help:
• Stepping up vigilance within your neighborhood about unfamiliar individuals hanging out or behaving suspiciously. Get good descriptions and call us even if you’re not sure what the suspicious individuals are up to. Depending on how busy we are with high priority calls, we cannot always respond as quickly as we’d like, but there are many times when officers are available and in the area, so don’t discount the value of calling us. You can dial “911” or our non-emergency number—which is (510)233-1214 (then press -0- for Dispatch);
• If you are a victim, do not resist or fight back. Your safety is more important than your property. Do your best to recall incident details, suspect descriptions and direction of travel and call 911 immediately. Don’t wait to report the crime;
• Stay alert in your comings and goings from your home. Don’t be distracted by talking on your cellphone. Pay attention to what’s going on around you. Whenever possible, avoid carrying or displaying valuables. There’s no need to take a “bunker mentality,” but be street-smart and stay aware of your surroundings;
• Get to know your neighbors, then get organized! Neighbors looking out for each other and watching for the unusual is powerful crime prevention. Consider starting a Neighborhood Watch group (contact our Crime Prevention Manager, Michelle Milam, at mmilam@richmondpd.net for help with this). If your neighborhood is having a National Night Out block party, stop by and visit with your neighbors and beat officers. Attend RPD’s Safe Cities Community Crime Expo on Aug. 22nd by the Civic Center for more safety tips, information, and other resources.


About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.