Safety tops RHA residents’ concerns

blogimage.jpgCalls for heightened police presence rang through yesterday’s Housing Advisory Commission meeting. Though the monthly meeting was sparsely attended — with just 12 RHA residents present — the tenants were adamant about their requests for more diligent and tactful policing of the Housing Authority properties.

Richmond Police Officer Moczulski stood in on the meeting as the standard representative of the RPD. Officer Moczulski attempted to give the regular report of criminal activity during the last month, but he was regularly interrupted by residents critiquing the RPD’s tactics. Tenants’ concerns fell under the theme of increased and more sensitive responsiveness from the RPD.

One man cited several incidents at Nevin Plaza in which tenants’ doors were kicked in. Many victims did not report the incidents, he explained, because they feared retaliation from the perpetrators. Tenants believed that in order to properly report the crime an officer from the RPD would have to visit their unit, which would expose them as having filed a police report. 

As a result, crimes remained unreported, and the criminals — while well-known within Nevin Plaza — remain free to walk the halls. Tenants present at the meeting called for Officer Moczulski to find a solution that allowed for residents to file a police report less conspicuously.

The officer tried to meet them halfway. While it is possible to file a police report without an officer visiting the violated unit, he explained, tenants must still give their information to the police. “If we hope to help these tenants, they’re going to have to step forward and tell us who they are,” said Officer Moczulski.

Other tenants called for a more visible police presence around RHA buildings. The standard of police officers posting in parking lots around the buildings wasn’t enough for them, and it was suggested that the RPD vehicles should be parked immediately outside the residencies. The tenants explained that if the officers are more visible, then potential criminals will be less likely to act. Officer Moczulski was reticent to oblige, citing safety concerns of the officers. In the end it was agreed that officer response time needs to be improved.

The impromptu conversation highlighted the need for more defined protocol between residents of RHA buildings and the Richmond Police Department. If the residents don’t know how to safely report crimes, and if the officers aren’t readily available, the security of RHA tenants will continue to be at risk. Future meetings of the Housing Advisory Committee will call upon Officer Moczulski to hash out a more definitive plan until tenants have sufficient safety resources.

Photo courtesy of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

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