2018 Richmond Crime Rates

The Virginia State Police publish an annual report on Crime in Virginia.  They count the “Type A” offenses reported per police unit:

Destruction/Damage/Vandalism of Property
Drug/Narcotic Offenses
Fraud Offenses
Gambling Offenses
Motor Vehicle Theft
Pornography/Obscene Material
Prostitution Offenses
Sex Offenses, Forcible & Nonforcible
Stolen Property Offenses
Weapon Law Violations

This year they classify offenses in three categories:


These data have their peculiarities. First, a counting problem: The published report [at p.8] for 2018 reports 89,701 “Crimes Against the Person,” while their (wonderfully complete but complex) database reports 105,004.  The report says (at page 8), “Several offenses may have occurred in one crime incident; therefore the total number of Group A offenses reported was 418,074.”  Yet the database total is 436,464.

Note: In one sense I’m being unfair. The data from the local sources change daily as after-the-fact information emerges and the database is updated to reflect those changes.  But the database has had six months to settle down and differences noted above are VERY large compared to the ordinary after-the-fact changes.

Whatever they are counting, the total should be the total. 

In any case, the numbers below are what they report in the database as of July 17-19, 2019.

They report the numbers by police agency, both the local force and, in most cases, the State Police.  For example, the Richmond Police Department shows 21,859 total offenses and the State Police show 233 in Richmond.  The report also includes data for the colleges (e.g., 1,269 for the VCU Campus Police), the Capitol Police (74 offenses), and state agencies such as the ABC Board (100 offenses).  Just as a statistical matter, the small jurisdictions produce some weird numbers because even a small number of crimes can produce a large change in the crime rate.  As well, the State Police report a significant fraction of the incidents in some small jurisdictions; for instance, in Craig County in 2018, the sheriff reported 26 offenses while the State Police reported 22.

The data below are for the jurisdiction’s local law enforcement agency only.

To start, here are the 2018 counts, expressed as Type A offense reports per 100 population vs. population.


Richmond is the gold square.  The red diamonds, from the left, are the peer jurisdictions, Hampton, Newport News, and Norfolk.  South Boston and Clifton Forge are omitted for lack of population data.

There is no particular reason to expect these data to fit a straight line but Excel is happy to fit one.  The slope suggests that the rate (per hundred population) increases by about 0.12 for a population increase of 100,000.  The R2, however, tells us that population explains less than half of 1% of the variance in the crime rate; i.e., overall crime rate (by this measure) does not correlate with population.

Here is the same graph, with the axis expanded to cut off the Big Guys (Fairfax, Va. Beach, Prince Wm., Loudoun, Chesterfield, and Henrico) in order to emphasize the distribution of the smaller jurisdictions.


The Top Twenty for offense rates all are cities.


And most of the Leaders there are little guys.

If we sort by population, we get:


Notice the large differences between the rates of the large cities and the large counties.

Just to cleanse the palate, here are the twenty jurisdictions with the lowest counts per hundred population (all are counties).


CAVEATS: These numbers tell us about overall crime rates but not about the environment faced by any particular citizen.  As well, the VSP emphasizes that, as we see above, population is not a good predictor of crime rate.  They list [at p.8] other factors:

1. Population density and degree of urbanization;
2. Population variations in composition and stability;
3. Economic conditions and employment availability;
4. Mores, cultural conditions, education, and religious characteristics;
5. Family cohesiveness;
6. Climate, including seasonal weather conditions;
7. Effective strength of the police force;
8. Standards governing appointments to the police force;
9. Attitudes and policies of the courts, prosecutors and corrections;
10. Citizen attitudes toward crime and police;
11. The administrative and investigative efficiency of police agencies and the organization and cooperation of adjoining and overlapping police jurisdictions;
12. Crime reporting practices of citizens.

Here are the rates for Richmond, the total for all jurisdictions (still of the local law enforcement agencies), and the peer cities for the most-reported offenses.


And some less common offenses:


And some still less common crimes:


The 2018 Richmond rate increased to 9.76 from 8.65 in 2017 while the state total continued a decline to just above half the Richmond rate.


As the graph at the top shows, the Type A total is driven by the property crime numbers.  To see how violent and drug crime are doing, we have to look underneath the totals.

When we do that, we see that the Richmond count of simple assaults rose a bit in ‘18, as did the drug offenses.


Note: This graph and those immediately below report the raw counts of offenses reported to the Richmond Police Dept., not the count per 100.  Throughout this period, the Richmond population has been just over 200,000, with very little change, so you can get close to the rates per 100 by dividing these numbers by 2,000.  For example, the quick number for drug offenses is just short of 1.0 per hundred while the actual rate is 0.90.

The robbery numbers continued a long downward trend; aggravated assaults continued to rise.


The murder and kidnap counts dropped.  The decreases from the early 2000’s, both here and above, are remarkable.


For a list of the hot blocks for drugs in Richmond see this page.  And see this page for data showing a nice improvement in Forest Hill (with some recent slippage).

Much of Richmond’s plethora of crime is drug-related

To complement the still outrageous crime rate, our schools are among the worst in the state and our public housing agency maintains a sanctuary for crime on its property.  To support all this dysfunction, we pay some of the highest taxes in the state.  Go figure.

Note: In the past, Mr. Westerberg of the VSP kindly furnished a copy of the data as an Excel spreadsheet, so I didn’t have to copy the numbers from the PDF report on the Web.  He now is enjoying his retirement and the VSP has put up a database with more numbers than one might want.