Deadly drug fentanyl more common than heroin

Although most criminal activity in Richmond seems to be in decline this year compared to 2021, Richmond Police Department is finding some causes for concern.

Richmond Police Chief Michael Britt gave a 10-month statistical update to the Common Council on Nov. 21.

“There are not a lot of surprises in these crime statistics,” Britt said.

He said the broad category of crimes against property “is the lowest I’ve ever seen,” noting a consistent decline from 2,064 cases in 2015 and 1,844 in 2016. That includes burglary, larceny, vehicle theft and arson. Crimes against property totaled 538 through Oct. 31, compared to 773 cases in 2021, 894 in 2020 and 1,010 in 2019.

He credited his late predecessor, Chief Jim Branum, for introducing a system to RPD called “intelligence-based prevention” in 2017, Britt said. It includes heat mapping, in which the police identify where the most calls are coming from, and “shows a pretty clear representation of where our problem areas are.”

So far in 2022, only two criminal homicides had been reported, compared to four in 2021 and nine the year before. This year’s total may go up as the coroner confirms cause of death in some cases, Britt said. Ten rape cases had been reported this year – about one a month – compared to 26 (more than two a month) in 2021. At 14 cases for the first 10 months, this year’s robbery rate is about on par with the past two years.

Britt said a major cause for concern is the amount and types of illegal drugs being recovered by police. The Wayne County Drug Task Force, in which Richmond is a partner, has recovered less than half a gram of heroin but 92.47 grams of fentanyl and 168.71 grams of a heroin-fentanyl mix during this year. Originally used as an animal tranquilizer, fentanyl is deadly in very small quantities. People who purchase drugs on the street don’t know what they are getting, Britt said.

RPD has recorded 48 drug dealing offenses and 280 for drug possession.

Britt said the number of calls involving mental health issues also is showing an increase. He estimated that the total number of calls for service will be about 32,000 by year-end, compared to 34,245 in 2021 and 40,866 in 2020.

Britt told Common Council that he and the police force are grateful to serve in a community that supports what the police do. That never had been more apparent than when the city, surrounding areas and other police agencies came together to support RPD after the Aug. 10 shooting and subsequent death of RPD K9 Officer Seara Burton.

In other business, the Common Council:

  • Approved a zoning change that would allow a 231-unit senior housing development to be constructed off of Garwood Road on the city’s southeast side. On Nov. 7, the council had asked for more information before voting on the developer’s request for multi-family housing. The developer submitted a drainage plan with semi-pervious surfaces that will allow stormwater to quickly return to the city drinking water aquifer. Council voted 5-3 for the rezoning, with Jeff Cappa, Jeff Locke and Larry Parker voting no. Jane Bumbalough did not attend the meeting.
  • Agreed to the voluntary annexation of 360 acres being developed as Phase 3 of Midwest Industrial Park on the city’s west side. It also appropriated $200,000 from the Richmond Sanitary District as the city’s share of a $2 million engineering project to expand sewer capacity to Phase 3.

The council’s next meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5, in Richmond Municipal Building, 50 N. 5th St. It will be followed by the Richmond Power & Light board meeting. The public may attend both.

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Bob Hansen is a reporter for the Western Wayne News.