Lynchburg police chief reflects on 2021, goals for 2022

The Hill City reported nine homicides in 2021, the most in two decades

Law enforcement all across the country responded to an increase in violent crime in 2021, and a local police chief is hoping that the new year will be a little different.

LYNCHBURG, Va. – Law enforcement across the United States responded to an increase in violent crime in 2021.

10 News sat down with Lynchburg Police Chief Ryan Zuidema to reflect on the past year and his goals for 2022.

When asked how he would sum up the department’s 2021 Zuidema said, “Better than 2020 and, hopefully, not as good as 2022.”

He believes last year was the start of transitioning from COVID-19 and civil unrest in 2020.

But the Hill City saw an increase in violent crime in 2021.

Lynchburg reported nine homicides—the most in more than two decades.

“To see nine in one year is significant, and that’s concerning for me as the police chief. It should be concerning for all of our residents of our community,” said Zuidema.

LPD says it responded to nearly 50 malicious woundings and 500 calls for shots fired.

“We’ve had shootings that involved kids as young as 14-years-old. That is a huge concern of mine, and it should be, again, for everybody in the community. We need to engage these young men and women long before they get to that age.”

Zuidema hopes more people will come forward with information in 2022.

“We just encourage the community to come forward in whatever manner they feel and just ask themselves, ‘If my loved one was a victim of this crime, what would I want others to do?”

Lynchburg continues to face a staffing shortage. The department’s currently down 25 officers.

A pay increase went into effect Wednesday, with the starting salary now $50,000 for officers. Zuidema said they’re already seeing an improvement.

“In 2020 we saw about 342 applicants. In 2021, we saw about 250 applicants. Just in the last month since announcing this starting salary increase, we’ve seen about 90 applications already,” said Zuidema.

Lynchburg’s chief said his goals for 2022 are to break ground on a new police headquarters, which he said is desperately needed; But more importantly, Zuidema wants to get the COVID-19 pandemic behind us so the department can build a better relationship with the community.

About the Author:

Tim Harfmann joined the 10 News team in September 2020 and works at the station's Lynchburg bureau.