The Richmond (California) Comprehensive Homicide Initiative is a problem-oriented policing program composed of a broad collection of enforcement and nonenforcement strategies designed to reduce homicides.
Richmond, California is located across the bay from San Francisco. During the 1990s the population of the city was around 94,000. Nearly half of this population was African American, just more than one third white, and one fourth Hispanic and Asian. Richmond’s relationship to San Francisco is analogous to Newark, N.J.’s relationship to New York, N.Y.; Gary, Ind.’s relationship to Chicago, Ill.; and Camden, N.J.’s relationship to Philadelphia, Pa.
Between 1985 and 1994, the city experienced several economic setbacks and increases in drug-related violence that were common among other urban areas at that time. Richmond also witnessed a rise in the number of homicides. Homicides had remained constant from 1985 to 1987 but then increased dramatically by the end of the 1980s. By 1991 the number of homicides had tripled from 20 in 1985 to 61 in 1991, making Richmond one of the most violent cities in the country, per capita.
To address the rising number of homicides in the city, the Richmond Police Department began to rethink its strategy toward homicide and violent crime and in the early 1990s started to shift toward a problem-oriented policing philosophy. In 1995, Richmond was selected as a demonstration site for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance Comprehensive Homicide Initiative. The initiative provided funding to jurisdictions to implement violence reduction strategies that concentrated on reducing homicides.
The Richmond Comprehensive Homicide Initiative combined traditional law enforcement practices with specific prevention and intervention efforts that involved partnerships with the community, other city agencies, and local schools. The initiative departed from the traditional police definition of homicide as a unique offense in which the appropriate police role is largely limited to after-the-fact investigation. Instead, it started to include homicide prevention as a critical police responsibility that can best be accomplished by identifying the paths that frequently lead to homicide and closing them by intervening early. With this new definition in mind, a plan was developed that concentrated on specific problem areas, including targeting domestic violence, enhancing investigative capabilities, intervening in the lives of at-risk youths, and targeting outdoor-, gun-, drug-, and gang-related violence.
The initiative included the development of numerous enforcement and nonenforcement strategies. Nonenforcement strategies, characterized as prevention/intervention strategies, consisted of:
- Collaborating with the community, the Richmond Public Works Department, and the Housing Authority in a crime-reduction planning process emphasizing aesthetics and community pride
- Using the Richmond Police Athletic League Computer Center to provide job skills training to Richmond youths and adults
- Collaborating with the Richmond public schools to enlist officers in an adopt-an-elementary-school program and to develop a middle school mentoring program involving Drug Abuse Resistance Education (or D.A.R.E.) officers and high school students
- Collaborating with the Contra Costa County Probation Department to develop a probation-officer-on-campus program for high schools
- Collaborating with the juvenile justice system to develop a youth court program
- Collaborating with the Battered Women’s Alternatives and the Rape Crisis Coalition to support programs and practices to reduce domestic violence (Fyfe, Goldkamp, and White 1997)
Traditional investigative and enforcement functions included:
- Developing an intensified team approach to obtain information on high-profile homicides
- Obtaining FBI assistance in reviewing old, unsolved ("cold") homicide cases
- Obtaining the assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement in targeting violence-prone members of the drug culture
- Assigning an evidence specialist to the Richmond Police Department’s detective bureau
- Improving information sharing and technology (Fyfe, Goldkamp, and White 1997)
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White and colleagues (2003) found a significant impact of the Richmond (Calif.) Comprehensive Homicide Initiative on homicides in Richmond, beginning in January 1995 and lasting through the end of the study period (July 1998). The time-series analysis showed that the number of homicides significantly decreased in the first month of 1995, by more than one homicide per month.
The results of the time-series analysis indicated that the Richmond Police Department’s response to the increase in violence that began in 1992 and continued through the implementation of the Comprehensive Homicide Initiative started to have an effect in January of 1995, suggesting that the impact was gradual in onset but long lasting in duration.