CHURCH HILL, Va. — Gangs in Church Hill will have a harder time stirring up trouble thanks to a surprising new alliance between the Richmond SPCA and the Richmond Police Department.
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The SPCA’s CEO Robin Starr and RPD’s Chief Alfred Durham have joined together to crack down on vicious feral cat gangs invading Church Hill. Residents found them adorable until they began “tagging” (violently pissing on) stop signs, houses, and perfectly good abandoned couches on the sidewalks. The cats have also been eating residents’ compost, dragging out and shredding their garbage all over the place, and organizing late-night flash mobs of musical numbers from “Cats.” They have even attempted to recruit local housecats to join them.
But enough is enough.
“This has been in the works for quite some time,” Durham said. “With the crime statistics rising, we knew we had to do something to keep our community safe.”
Durham called Starr at the beginning of the year to create a specialized joint training program with SPCA employees and police officers. Officers spent the day in both of the SPCA’s cat socialization rooms playing with the roaming cats. They did this to obtain their scent so that other cats would be more comfortable with the officers. They were then dispatched to Church Hill with dry cat food and placed bowls of it on each block for the first phase of the raids. Starr emphasized the importance of not trying to have direct contact with the cats right away, as it would bring harm to both the cat and the officer.
“The cats need to know you’re a ‘cool cat’ and will get suspicious and dangerous if they think you’re a cop,” Starr explained.
Instead, Starr said it is crucial the officers slowly infiltrate the gangs and gain their trust. Once the cats are comfortable with the officers, they will lure the newer and more trusting feline recruits who have yet to become more invested in the gang to come back to the station with them. The cats will be questioned and detained until an SPCA employee can pick them up to be vaccinated and spayed or neutered.
However, fat-cat crime bosses and diehard members will have to be dealt with more fiercely due to their murderous hearts. “This is the only time I would say a cat has to be handled without remorse or compassion. They are ruthless and don’t care who they have to hurt to have control of the block,” Starr said.
To capture these killer kitties, officers and specialized SPCA employees will gather intel from the lower gang members they’ve flipped and map out their suspected hangouts. When the boss cats are brought in, they will be questioned individually. SPCA employees will play “good cop” while the officers play “bad cop” for the best results. The hope is this group-questioning style will break even the most hardened pussycat into confessing to his transgressions.
Depending on the charges, they will ultimately be sent to a maximum security facility or, for the truly terrible cases, adopted out to the crazy cat lady who will dress them up in a different outfit for every day of the week. Both Durham and Starr are confident more organized raids will help corner the cats and dismantle the groups one gang at a time.
So far, Church Hill has been the hardest-hit location. Though the gangs are also known to occasionally wander into VCU’s jurisdiction, VCU PD’s Chief John Venuti has already set up vaping students as barriers to discourage the felines from crossing the line.
“Turns out strawberry-flavored vape juice is as intolerable to cats as it is to much of our student population,” said Venuti.
Residents who see any gang members are encouraged to not post pictures of the cats to Instagram but to call 911 instead.
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