Justice League is watching

Unique partnership dramatically reduces homicides in Richmond

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Asked about the spectacle of drawing a dozen federal agents and police officers while just walking through an apartment complex, Mr. Spottswood smiled.

“They’re used to it by now,” he said.

What remains to be seen is whether the success the CVRP has had can be duplicated in other cities. In the years since Project Exile debuted in Richmond, the philosophy was exported to other states and localities under different acronyms with varying degrees of success.

Since 2004, ATF has fielded more than 100 VCIT teams nationwide. Some with more success than others.

“I think the VCIT in Richmond is ATF’s most successful continuous VCIT in the country. No other VCIT comes close,” Mr. Domenech said. Of the program’s success, he said: “I think it’s more dependent on the relationship between the law-enforcement community - the local, state and federal law-enforcement community.”

The sentiment was echoed by Mrs. Decker, who said the key is putting ego aside, avoiding petty turf battles and disputes over credit and blame.

“A lot of us like to say public safety transcends politics,” she said.

Other obstacles exist. Mr. Herring said it can still be difficult explaining to a city council oversight panel why prosecutors paid by Richmond taxpayers are assigned to federal cases. But the downturn in crime has trumped any potential criticism.

Mr. Swann said he’s well aware that at some point the number of homicides is going to hit a floor, beyond which it cannot be driven any lower. After that, he wonders if the gains can be maintained.

And while the partners have largely remained unchanged since the CVRP was formalized, the group took a hit this year when Chief Monroe left Richmond in May for a job as police chief in Charlotte, N.C. He was replaced as CVRP chairman by incoming Chief Bryan Norwood.

Mrs. Decker said the CVRP can survive personnel changes, adding that it has become part of the culture of law enforcement in the city.

“I don’t think there’s anything out there like Richmond,” she said.

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