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The 25-Year-Old Crime Strategy That Needs to Be Brought Back

Posted on Friday, September 23, 2022
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by Andrew Abbott
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AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott

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While major metropolitan areas like New York City and Los Angeles have consumed most of the media attention when it comes to the country’s spiraling violent crime problem, they aren’t the only areas dealing with a crime spike. Smaller cities such as Richmond, Virginia have also seen rising numbers of homicides and violent crimes – leading some residents to call on Democrat leaders at the city and federal level to revisit a two-decade old program that helped quell a prior wave of violence.

Last Thursday, Richmond Police responded to multiple shootings in one night, an occurrence that is fast becoming routine in Virginia’s capital city. Over Labor Day weekend, three people were shot at a baby shower in the southern part of the city in a public park, sending dozens of panicked residents running for cover. 2021 was the deadliest year for Richmond in decades, and 2022 is on pace to surpass it.

City leaders as well as the governor’s office have acknowledged that something must be done to stop the violence. Following last Thursday’s shootings, Virginia Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears was on the scene to observe for herself how bad the problem has gotten. Ironically, she was just a few blocks away from the third shooting at an event with city leaders to discuss gun violence. “We heard somebody had gotten shot somewhere else, and then we heard about two more, and then we heard about two more and we said, ‘Let’s go,’” Sears said. “I said, ‘I want to go see for myself,’ and we came without any police protection or anything, but if the people I represent aren’t safe then why should I be safe, so that’s why I’m here.”

In response to the problem, city leaders have attempted to implement so-called “gun buyback programs” – a common liberal solution to gun-related violence. During the first such gun buyback days last month, Richmond residents could collect up to $250 in gift cards for every weapon they handed over to police. In total, 476 firearms were recovered, of which over 300 were still operable.

City officials touted the event as a success, yet experts disagreed. Historically, gun buyback programs have not led to meaningful reductions in crime, according to Dr. Will Pelfrey, an expert in law enforcement and public safety. “The people who are going to bring those guns [to a buyback event] … are unlikely to be the people who are considering using those guns in a violent crime,” Dr. Pelfrey told VPM News. “Criminals are unlikely to show [up] to an event where there are, probably, police.”

This is a routine issue with progressive efforts to reduce armed violence. Most liberal policies are aimed at reducing firearm possession among law-abiding citizens, not criminals or potential offenders.

Some law enforcement officials in Virginia are instead pushing for the reinstatement of a joint state and federal program to address gun violence that was far more effective.

In 1997, Richmond was again facing another wave of violent crime – in this instance due largely to gang violence. Poor and minority neighborhoods were disproportionately affected, and police resources were strained to their limits.

In response, the federal government implemented what would become known as “Project Exile.” Instead of today’s soft-on-crime policies that often see offenders back out on streets in a matter of hours, anyone found carrying an illegal firearm would be charged in federal court and receive a five-year mandatory minimum sentence on top of any other criminal charges. In addition to these aggressive charges, the program also ran a significant public awareness campaign that made the policy explicitly clear. The program had strong support from the general public, the National Rifle Association, and a bipartisan group of legislators in Congress.

One year after being implemented, almost 500 illegally possessed guns were off the streets. Additionally, the program put hundreds of criminals behind bars for, at minimum, five years. As a result, homicides and armed robberies decreased by more than 30 percent. A decade after being implemented, Richmond’s homicide rate had dropped by over 50 percent.

Critics of the program argued that the program was “racist” because it resulted in the incarceration of a disproportionate number of Black offenders. But as supporters of the program – many of them also Black – pointed out, most of the victims of gun violence in the city were Black as well.

Over time, as the homicide rate declined, the program was replaced by Virginia Exile, with more lenient sentencing guidelines. Today, as homicide rates spike once again, retired Richmond Police Detective Joseph Fultz is calling for returning to the Project Exile strategy.

In a recent interview, Fultz declared, “If we went to solving problems instead of worrying about politics so much, we’d have a better situation going on and get a lot more issues solved…We have to put politics aside…The initial problem is violent crime, illegal guns, criminals using those guns, and who is it affecting? People in those communities.”

Shortly before taking office, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares announced he was open to reinstating the program. Unsurprisingly, Virginia Democrats have opposed the idea. But as violence continues to spread unchecked on the streets of Richmond – and dozens of other cities like it throughout the country – communities are in desperate need of an effective response from their elected leaders.

Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.

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Max
Max
1 year ago

Amazing. Proven methods of controlling violence and crimes are being denounced and condemned by the DEMs while their methods are allowing violent people back on the streets to commit more violent acts continue. This is an example of “EVIL BECOMING GOOD AND GOOD BECOMING EVIL”. This situation will continue to be the norm by the minority while the majority continue to sit on their behinds and allow it to continue. Hey, MAJORITY — WAKE UP!!! Start making your voice be heard and take back control.

PaulE
PaulE
1 year ago

Good luck getting any effective anti-crime program reactivated in a Democrat controlled city or town. It’s simply NOT going to happen. The police can put up all the charts and data that shows how effective the policy was in the past that they want, but that doesn’t matter to any Democrat politician. The truth of the matter is Democrat politicians are generally happy or at least unconcerned with higher criminal activity, because it distracts the public’s attention away from other policy failures of the Democrats, as well as their myriad of pay to play schemes that bring in the big bucks that make them all rich over time. Front page stories on rising crime rates or the latest murder are preferable to a front page story about some shady deal involvng local Democrat politicians being investigated or arrested.

People should understand by now that voting for Democrats is voting for a higher crime rate, less personal safety and less law and order. If people ever bothered to look at the statistics over time, which they don’t, comparing Democrat control to Republican control this would be obvious. So in Democrat run towns and cities all over this nation, people are making a concious choice to accept “feel good” rhetoric from Democrat politicians at the expense of higher crime rates. You can’t fix stupid.

Carol
Carol
1 year ago

Every time Leftist take over, things fall apart! Destruction always and then the Conservatives have to fix all the crap left by Leftist! Catch 22!

Donald Christian
Donald Christian
1 year ago

ANYTIME a weapon is used in commission of a crime, capitol punishment should be on the table.

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
1 year ago

Do this nationwide

Nobody’s Business
Nobody’s Business
1 year ago

That all sounds well and good but the prosecutors will put gun owners that are carrying in jail for 5 years for minor offenses like j walking, running a red light, parking violations. While letting the real criminals walk. Remember gun laws aren’t there to stop crime it’s there for people control. And it’s easier to control good people than criminals.

Hal
Hal
1 year ago

Liberals just don’t get it!!! People kill. Guns are often used by people to execute the “kill.” I have never heard of a non-fairy tale incident where a gun jumped into the possession of a person and killed someone of its own volition. Libs don’t get it … people kill and the guns are hostages to the usage of the holder. Only in comic books or fairy tales have I ever heard of a gun deliberately attempting to shoot and/or kill a person.

Barbara Charis
Barbara Charis
1 year ago

“Gun buy back”, when criminals will never surrender their guns? I take it! Many educated in our rote learning systme think this way. Let’s remove guns from honest citizens! There will be no confrontations or resistance on the part of honest citizens! The criminals will be permitted to just take over! Is this the reasoning of those officials who are in charge?

anna hubert
anna hubert
1 year ago

There is only one way to deal with the crime Deal with it instead of pussyfooting around trying to come up with excuses

David Millikan
David Millikan
1 year ago

Gun buybacks are a joke. The government can’t buyback a gun it never owned. Also, it’s just a feel good do nothing scam. (Playing politics)
Since cities like NY have NO BAIL for any crime just send ALL the criminals there.
The ONLY States with Out of Control CRIME are Democrat ran States because of their policies for loving criminals and ILLEGAL ALIEN TERRORIST.
So they cry and whine and blame everybody else for their FAILED policies.
What a shocker.

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