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Richmond debates whether to declare state of emergency

Associated Press | June 22 2005

Stunned by a spate of unsolved slayings, the city debated into the morning Wednesday about whether to declare a state of emergency, a move that could lead to additional police patrols and surveillance cameras in troubled neighborhoods.

Richmond's public safety committee voted Monday to recommend that the nine-member City Council declare a state of emergency in nine neighborhoods. The council heard from scores of residents Tuesday night at a meeting that drew hundreds of people. The council hadn't voted on the proposal as of early Wednesday morning.

Mayor Irma Anderson supported increased funding for police and more help from state, county and federal law enforcement to help stem the violence, but was opposed to the measure.

"A local declaration of emergency is used when you want to bring in the National Guard, impose curfews and suspend constitutional rights and due-process procedures," she said. "I do not believe that any of those actions would resolve the crisis we currently face."

Richmond has reported 17 killings in the city this year, compared to 36 slayings in 2004. Eight people have been killed in Richmond in the past two weeks. Police say some of the violence this year has been caused by increasing gang rivalries and errant gunfire.

"This madness has got to end," said the Rev. Andre Shumake, who works at the North Richmond Missionary Baptist Church. "You've got to understand - innocent people are being killed. We're tired of this carnage."

While many mourning family members carrying signs with photos of slain loved ones urged the council to adopt the resolution, the city's mayor and some of the council members spoke out against it.

Anderson said the move could lower property values, increase homeowner insurance and discourage outside private investment. She also said the resolution "gets us dangerously close to the path of a perpetual police state controlled by big brother."

"This declaration does not provide any long-term solutions to our problems," Anderson added. "We need a far more comprehensive and strategic approach to the problem, not a short-term Band-Aid solution."

Anderson also pointed out that crime has fallen 6.7 percent since last year and nonfatal shootings are down over the past decade.

The move would also allocate nearly $2 million in city funds in a 15 month-period for 15 new police officers, surveillance cameras and drug-sniffing dogs. The city is still recovering from a $35 million budget shortfall last year.

As part of the resolution, Richmond would request temporary help from the California Highway Patrol, the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department and state parole agents. Deputies and CHP officers would add extra traffic patrols and free up Richmond police to pursue drug dealers.



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