RICHMOND, Va. – George Carrington III was excited to be a father. He loved cars and couldn’t wait to buy his son a Big Wheel tricycle, his mother said. But they have never met each other — the 17-year-old was shot in Virginia, the capital city of three days before his girlfriend gave birth to George Carrington IV.
“There is no reason that George’s life should have taken,” said his mother, Virnita Carrington. “He was waiting for his baby boy.”
Carrington was one of the 61 people killed in Richmond deadliest year in a decade, to about 50 percent in 2015. The murders were at their highest level since 2006, when there were 81.
The murders remain far below the more than 100 per year that plagued the city in a large part of the 1990s. But the increasing toll of people are worried, and weary of burying their children and parents.
“The community, they are tired,” said Richmond police chief Alfred Durham. “And I get tired of going to vigil after the vigil, the sight of the tears, seeing the mothers mourn and family and friends mourn the death of their loved ones, only to come back to do it again the next week.”
Nationally, violent crime remains much lower than the peak in the 1990s, and the murder rates are still declining in some cities. Murders are projected to decline from almost 5 percent in New York City, and after Baltimore suffered a spike in violence in 2015, the murders on track to drop 6 percent this year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
But homicides have climbed recently elsewhere, and the total number of murders for the nation’s 30 largest cities in 2016 is expected to increase by 14 percent compared to last year, according to a report by the center released this month. A wave of violence in Chicago, however, is good for nearly 44 percent of that increase. Experts disagree about the cause.
Carrington’s body was found in November in the vicinity of a tilted car in the North of Richmond. The police have the name of the 17-year-old Ishmael D. Brown as a suspect, but have not yet located him. Carrington’s mother said she believes her son — the city’s youngest murder victim this year — may have been killed in a robbery attempt.
The city of the murders appear to be linked to turf wars, or drugs, as they were in the years 1990 and 2000, leaving the enforcement of the law with no quick or obvious ways to the violence, said Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring.
“That has me more than anything else,” Herring said. He fears that the numbers are not an aberration, but the beginning of an upward curve.
The violence is almost entirely gun-related. The killers are usually young men who seem to pull the trigger to settle arguments, Herring and Durham said. Social media can tank; In many cases of disputes between the defendants and the victims first play on Facebook, Haring said.
Richmond city council has recently approved the spending of $1.6 million to hire 40 additional officers, which is expected to take to the streets this summer. Durham said he hopes to have a number of officers to walk beats after they answer radio calls due to staffing shortages. He also wants to create a special unit focused on the city’s six public housing communities, ” he said.
But everyone agrees that there are more police officers on the street is not enough.
“A lot of people say the same thing, ‘Chief are you going to do? What are the police going to do about it?’ Durham Said. “I tell people: ‘This is bigger than the police. We all have a responsibility for the safety of the public, ” he said.
The murders have made 2016 a busy year for Charles Willis, who helps organize vigils for the victims and their family questions. On a cold day in December, Willis was the collection of Christmas gifts to give to the three young children of Tychelle Johnson, who was fatally shot in her apartment shortly after Carrington’s death.
Richmonders are sick of violence, Willis said.
“To get a call at 3:30 or 4’oclock in the morning or 2 o’clock in the morning and a number of cousins of a family don’t forget to say that my cousin just shot my son just killed … that has a huge impact on the community. Because the community of the heartbeat is to say, you know, we are tired. Enough is enough,” he said.
Follow Alanna durkin Richer on Twitter twitter.com/aedurkinricher. Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/alanna-durkin-richer .