Richmond struggles to curb violence

September 16, 2009 8:27:34 PM PDT
The family of a woman gunned down at a Richmond gas station Friday night is pleading for city leaders to take action. Her death comes amid a stunning surge of violence in the past week.

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Red dots on a screen tell the story; they are all shootings in the city of Richmond over the last two weeks alone, the sound of them captured by the police department's ShotSpotter sensors.

Richmond is a city overwhelmed by violence and grief.

"She didn't even begin to live her life like she was supposed to," Kizzie Hamilton said.

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Hamilton's sister Kaneesha mallard was shot at a Richmond gas station last Friday night. Hamilton says the 19-year old was on her way home to Hercules and that she had everything to live for.

"She hadn't even had a chance to live her life, have kids, get married, do nothing, she was just murdered, shot down and we want justice," Hamilton said.

Mallard was one of 5 people killed in Richmond over the weekend in more than 20 shootings. Community leaders are mobilizing and grasping for solutions.

"We can't blame the police, we can't blame the government, it's a family problem and we've got to come together and solve the problem," the Reverend Andre Shumake said.

But some do think more police officers in the hot spots would help.

"The Richmond Police Department as a whole, I'm sure they're trying but we have to come up with a better solution to get the job done," Pastor James Williams said.

The Richmond Police Department does have special crime suppression units of about seven officers who work the hot spots routinely.

Last night, the team got an AK-47 and semi-automatic pistol off the street. One suspect in the car they came out of is in custody, two others got away.

"We're not going to arrest our way out of this problem," Richmond Police Department spokesperson Lueitenant Mark Gagan said.

Gagan says they are hiring 16 more officers, which will still leave them understaffed for a city Richmond's size.

The City Council just approved upgrading the ShotSpotter system -- its memory is not big enough to handle the volume of gunshots in Richmond.

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