When Richmond Police picked Union Hill for its monthly walk-through, it wasn’t because of residents’ anti-crime Twitter campaign, Deputy Chief Eric English says.
Though the department keeps tabs on the neighborhood’s online reporting, he says Monday’s door-to-door campaign stemmed from statistics that show a recent increase in property crimes such as stolen cars, larcenies and vagrancies. “We want to make sure we support the community,” English says.
In contrast to April’s walk in Jackson Ward, several residents and property owners joined officers and top brass as they knocked on doors, chatted up residents and handed out information. Andrew Strickland, walking with the help of a cane, says he appreciates police coming out. He rattles off a list of problem street corners: 24th and O, Pink and Burton.
“We need more citizens and residents to stand up for what’s right,” says Strickland, who since 2007 has lived in Church Hill House, where he is vice president of the tenant association. (Despite its name, the apartment building for elderly and disabled residents is in Union Hill.)
Since late March, Union Hill residents have been posting anonymously to Twitter about drug dealing and other neighborhood problems. English says police are working to address concerns about drug activity in the East End neighborhood: “We’re trying to get as much information as we can to address the problem.”
Indeed, as officers and top brass toured the East End neighborhood, that’s what many residents complained about -- that and loitering. Several say they were glad police were coming around. “It makes me know that somebody else is concerned about the neighborhood,” says Lorann C. Moody, who has lived in Union Hill almost eight years.
Some residents shared stories of people congregating loudly on street corners well into the morning and dealing drugs in broad view. Moody says she’d had problems with people hanging out next door, where a boarded-up house sits empty, and tossing beer bottles in her yard. After police gave her some tips and encouraged her to post a “No Trespassing” sign, the problem cleared up.
Florence Coleman, who’s lived in the neighborhood for 16 years, says it appears crime has gone down markedly. “Maybe I’ve just been missing it,” she says.
Police shared notes after the walk through and planned to send a report back to the First Precinct. Meanwhile, the Union Hill Civic Association’s Twitter feed, @UnionHillRVA, posted words of thanks: “Today is day45 of our twitter campaign and we are on cloud 9. Thank you @Richmond Police !!”