AG tackles serious problem of gangs in Virginia with community crime clean-up
Ken Cuccinelli grabbed a shovel and got his hands dirty Saturday morning when he joined local residents and community leaders to hold a crime prevention clean-up day to discourage gangs and criminal behavior in Richmond.
“The unwanted graffiti and litter that mars our parks and public spaces has wrongly signaled to criminals that people do not care about this community,” said the Virginia Attorney General.
“We have come here to prove otherwise.”
“Let today be a time of hope and opportunity and let’s send a message to the criminals,” said Cuccinelli. “They are not welcome.”
Mr. Cuccinelli was at the Southside Boys and Girls Club with a host of volunteers including Nutzy the Flying Squirrel, McGruff the Crime Dog, Richmond Sheriff C.T. Woody and Managing Assistant United States Attorney Stephen Miller.
Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Marla Decker and Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Herring spoke to the crowd as well as joining in the beautification project on a beautiful Autumnal morning overlooking the new Richard J November baseball field.
The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation recently completely refurbished the field and Saturday’s event gave residents and businesses the opportunity to celebrate the field which is open to all neighborhood children.
Cuccinelli was impressed by the baseball field and remarked on the Astroturf: “I like it, it doesn’t even have to be mowed… maybe I should have that at my house.”
The group spent the morning planting flowers and bushes, laying mulch, picking up trash and painting playground equipment in order to reclaim this focal point of the local community and as part of the Attorney General’s anti-gang efforts throughout Virginia.
“Digging mulch, that’s about my skill level,” joked the Attorney General when asked what his assignment was for the morning he was. “Though my wife might say even this is beyond me.”
On a serious note, Cuccinelli said that gangs were a big issue and that he would rather prevent them rather than prosecute them.
The Attorney General’s Community Day program identifies local parks and communities across the commonwealth that are suffering from blight as a result of crime and gang warfare.
Cuccinelli has partnered with local law enforcement and community organizations to clean up the areas with beautification projects. The Attorney General has attended each Community Day, shovel in hand, hosting Community Days in Harrisonburg, Staunton, Newport News, Petersburg and Danville.
Local children were encouraged to take up the anti-gang message with a poster contest and the Attorney General was pleased to announce the winners as Mikala Farrar in first place, Karina Prieto in second and Sandra Castelan in third. The posters are on display at the Boys and Girls Club on Bainbridge Street, Richmond.
“We are so pleased to be able to team up with the Office of the Attorney General to help spruce up the Boys & Girls Club as part of the agency’s Community Day. The club has become of source of pride for the entire Bainbridge neighborhood. We are truly building community today and ensuring that the Boys & Girls Club continues to be a beacon of hope for neighborhood children,” said Chuck Brady, vice president of the Ripken Foundation.
“This is community policing at its best. Along with our partners, the Office of the Attorney General, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond, and the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, we’re using the great sport of baseball to bring inner city youth together. Baseball is founded on the same concepts that we promote: teamwork, working together, fair play, and character. We are fortunate to have this opportunity to participate in a community building event,” sad Major Steve Drew of the Richmond Police Department.
“We are very appreciative of the community support in advancing our mission to provide our children a safe place, mentoring relationships, and skill-building opportunities – inside and outside,” said Sean Miller, vice president of operations for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond.
The event was co-hosted by the Richmond Police Department, the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond.
Several area businesses supported the effort, including Mulch King, Watkins Nurseries, and Lowe’s. The Virginia National Guard, the Virginia National Guard Counterdrug Task Force, the Horticulture Program at W.W. Moore Jr. Detention Home, the Richmond Fire Department, and the Richmond Sheriff’s Office also contributed to Community Day.