VIRGINIA – Violent crimes spiked for the first time in four years across the country, a 2020 FBI report reveals, and those trends are seen here at home as well.
The Virginia State Police records crime trends year-to-year across the state.
In 2020, VSP recorded 528 homicides, a rate per 100,000 residents of 6.15. It reflects about a 23% increase from the year before.
Prior to last year, VSP data shows a steady increase year-to-year. The increase from 2019 to 2020 was “significant” compared to those of previous years.
On Monday, the FBI released its crime statistics for 2020, which shows that for the first time in four years the estimated number of violent crimes in the nation increased when compared with the previous year’s statistics. In 2020, violent crime was up 5.6% from the 2019 number.
“I feel like hell. I feel like it’s not fair,” expressed Brandee Hensley.
Her 21-year-old son, Brandon Hensley, is unfortunately, part of that data. He was shot in Northwest Roanoke in early July. No arrests in his case have been made.
“My son was a good-hearted person,” stated Hensley. “He was a father. He was a brother. He was a son.”
Of the 58 people shot in Roanoke so far in 2021, 12 of them have died.
“Our goal is to figure out ways in which we can interrupt that cycle of what seemingly is constant gun violence,” said Roanoke Police Chief Sam Roman.
“We see similar things here that Chief Roman is seeing in Roanoke,” expressed Lynchburg Police Chief Ryan Zuidema.
The Hill City is matching its highest homicide in recent years (2018) with eight homicides this year—all by gunfire.
However, not every Southwest Virginia city is seeing this trend.
Danville saw historic highs for violent crimes in 2016 but has seen a 69% decrease since.
“If there is something we can do to reduce crime and make Danville better, we’ve tried that,” explained Captain Steve Richardson. “We go to those areas, hear their problems, fix their problems. When you tell them you’re going to be there for them and you’re consistently there, over the course of several years we built a lot of credibility on the streets.”
We’ve reported on increased community policing efforts, but staffing shortages and less interest in law enforcement careers are some of the challenges.
“Evaluate what you’re personally doing to contribute to the gun violence,” said Chief Roman. “Not only in the city but your particular neighborhood. What are you doing? What is your active part in ensuring that you are aligning yourself with either the endeavors that are already underway or what great idea do you have to push the needle forward?”
Meanwhile, families like the Hensleys are hoping these cases are solved and no other families endure their pain.
“I feel very sorry for any other families that are dealing with the violence our family is dealing with because I know how hard it is. It’s the worst pain I’ve ever dealt with in my life,” said Hensley.