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Plea for Slayings Alert Is Rejected

Despite an upsurge in killings, the Richmond City Council refuses to call a state of emergency.

June 23, 2005|John Geluardi | Special to The Times

RICHMOND, Calif. — After a lengthy, emotionally charged and sometimes unruly meeting, the City Council early Wednesday voted against declaring a state of emergency in response to a recent upsurge in homicides in the Bay Area city.

More than 500 people, most of whom favored the declaration, tried to attend the council meeting Tuesday night. Those who could not get in -- the council chambers' capacity is about 100 -- watched the proceedings on two closed-circuit televisions that were set up in a temporary tent in the parking lot outside City Hall.

During the meeting Mayor Irma Anderson, who opposed the declaration, was frequently heckled by residents, some of whom had lost family members to homicide. Some who spoke during the five-hour meeting broke into tears.

Led by Anderson, the council finally voted about 1 a.m. Wednesday, rejecting the declaration 7 to 2. Members opposed to the declaration argued that it was too drastic and would have further tarnished the city's image.

However, the council did approve a provision in the declaration that called for spending $2 million in sales tax revenue on additional police officers and other law enforcement services.

Assistant to the Mayor Jay Leonhardy said there was a misconception that the declaration would bring state and federal resources to Richmond.

"The state of emergency was not the type that would have brought additional funding to the table," Leonhardy said. "On the contrary, it would have brought negativity, which would only inhibit our ability to address the problem."

A recent spate of high-profile homicides has many of Richmond's estimated 103,000 residents afraid to leave their homes. In the last two weeks, eight people have been killed and 20 others have been injured by gunfire.

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