An open letter has been circulating, written by a leader of a UVA parent group, concerning the increase in gun-violence. It encourages the UVA administration to continue to work with the City of Charlottesville Police to protect the University community and adjacent areas. The letter comes in response to calls from multiple student groups to end the ambassador program and defund other law enforcement initiatives like the newly created Community Oriented Policing Squad (COPS). The letter is as follows:
Letter to President Ryan and the University Police Department Commending the University’s Response to Escalating Gun Violence Adjacent to the University
Dear President Ryan, Chief Longo, and the University Community,
We are writing to express our support for the University’s actions to keep the UVA and adjacent communities safe during a time of unprecedented, escalating gun violence and crime in the Charlottesville community. We ask that UVA leadership continue its implementation of additional measures to address the situation head on. We recognize that, to the extent that UVA succeeds in curbing gun violence and other crime, both the UVA and Charlottesville communities benefit.
Specifically, we fully support the recently announced COPS initiative designed to make UVA police a more visible presence on the Corner, Rugby Rd, W. Main Street and JPA, all areas that have experienced an escalation of gun-related violence as well as other crimes to persons or property. We also support UVA police assisting the understaffed Charlottesville City Police by increasing UVA patrols in areas adjacent to Grounds. This joint patrol is more than appropriate under the circumstances and is authorized pursuant to a long-standing joint patrol agreement between UVA and the City of Charlottesville and a 1995 circuit court order authorizing concurrent patrol in an area even larger than that which UVA is currently mutually sharing patrol responsibilities.
We are well aware that, beginning in May 2021, gun violence escalated at an alarming rate in and around the University, particularly along the W. Main corridor and also on Rugby Road. Since May 2021, the 2,000 UVA students living on the W. Main corridor have lived under the constant threat of automatic gunfire and faced the risk of being struck by stray bullets at an alarming rate. Gun violence also has occurred on Elliewood Avenue and Rugby Road. Charlottesville crime reports show that gun violence has escalated with members of the public reporting more shootings this year to-date than in the entirety of 2020. We also know that this alarming rise in gun violence and other crime to persons or property has led the University to issue an unprecedented – but clearly warranted – number of alerts since this academic year began in an effort to keep the UVA community safe.
Specific incidents of concern to us include, but are not limited to:
- In May and June, 2021, on two separate occasions, stray bullets lodged in the walls of apartments at The Standard, an apartment complex housing over 600 UVA students. The Standard Gunshots May 2021 and The Standard Gunshots June 2021
- Also in May 2021, on Elliewood Ave, adjacent to The Corner, multiple rounds of machine gun shots were fired at midnight on a Friday night. These shots were aimed in public spaces including at a passing train and car, causing students in the vicinity to flee for safety. Gunfire on Elliewood Spring 2021
- On August, 30, 2021, UVA issued a community alert for shots fired near King and Grove St. Dozens of Shots Fired on Monday Night
- On September 1, 2021, UVA issued a community alert for shots fired near 12th Street and Gordon Ave. Shots Fired on Gordon Avenue
- On September 4, 2021, a UVA student was struck by a stray bullet while in the restroom at the Boylan Heights restaurant on The Corner. Boylan Heights Shooting
- On September 9, 2021, a home security camera captured the sound of a gun battle with 50-60 rounds of semi-automatic gunfire that occurred behind The Standard. Nest Camera Warzone Audio & Multiple Shots Fired behind The Standard
- On September 11, 2021, a daylight shooting took place outside the Pizza Hut and Kung Fu Tea on W. Main, next door to The Standard and across from The Flats and Lark on Main, apartment complexes also housing UVA students. Broad Daylight Shots Fired Pizza Hut on West Main
- On September 18, 2021, UVA issued a community alert for shots fired behind The Standard. Multiple Incidences of Shots Fired Linked
- On September 25, 2021, an aggravated assault involving a gun occurred on Rugby Road, near Beta Bridge. Safety Alerts | UVA Police Department (virginia.edu)
- On September 29, 2021, a prowling incident occurred on 14th Street. Safety Alerts | UVA Police Department (virginia.edu)
Thus far, increased police visibility has been effective in curbing gun violence and other crimes by serving as a deterrent, while resulting in no additional arrests other than the named perpetrators. By September 22, 2021, both UVAPD and CPD had increased police visibility. As of October 11, 2021, the increased police presence has meant that the UVA and Charlottesville communities have experienced a 3-week pause in gun violence. Prior to the increase in police presence, UVA students and Charlottesville community members endured almost daily automatic weapon gunfire.
During the constant barrage of gunfire that preceded these last three weeks, one student and two apartments were struck by stray bullets. The end result in all of these instances could have been much worse and likely will be without the continued increased police visibility, both on and off Grounds. Charlottesville and students and community members should not be at risk of being hit by stray bullets when they come and go from their residences and about the business of living and learning at the University. Furthermore, to the extent UVA succeeds in reducing gun violence, both the UVA and Charlottesville communities benefit. As no one among us wants a student or any member of the UVA or Charlottesville community to experience serious injury or loss of life due to gun violence, the efforts to curb indiscriminate gunfire and other forms of violent crime begun by UVA must continue.
We commend UVA, and call upon senior administration to continue to provide the courageous leadership desperately needed to keep our University and adjacent communities safe. We are acutely aware that meaningful reform at many colleges and universities has only occurred following the serious injury or death of a student by gun violence. We applaud UVA leadership for being proactive and not waiting for an even greater tragedy before taking appropriate and much needed action. We ask that UVA stay the course and continue to implement the COPS initiative increasing police visibility in areas experiencing increased gun violence and crime and continue UVA police patrols in the historical, long-standing joint patrol areas.