ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — On Tuesday, Roanoke’s Gun Violence Prevention Commission held a task force meeting to address the rise in crime in the community, especially shootings in the northwestern part of the Star City.
Between Jan. 1 and May 8, the Roanoke Police Department says there were 21 cases of gun-related aggravated assaults and six gun-related homicides in the city — which is up from the 13 aggravated assaults and five homicides at this time last year. This is also marks an increase from the 20 cases reported between Jan. 1 and April 12.
The new report released on Tuesday, May 10 broke Roanoke into four zones to show the locations of 26 aggravated assaults or homicides involving victims hit by gunfire:
- Zone 1 (southeast): Two cases
- Zone 2 (northeast): Six cases
- Zone 3 (southwest): Two cases
- Zone 4 (northwest): 16 cases
In addition, officials say the number of people calling in to report hearing shots fired has increased since last month. More specifically, the department reported receiving 67 of those calls this year, either through 911 or a non-emergency hotline.
However, when it comes down to the time of day these crimes are happening, authorities tell WFXR News the numbers are all over the place. From Jan. 1 to May 8, these crimes are occurring almost at any time of the day, sometimes more than once a day.
Meanwhile, police say many of the victims of this year’s gun-related aggravated assaults or homicides are young adults or Black men.
At the task force meeting on Tuesday, Youth and Gang Violence Prevention Coordinator Christopher Roberts shared his concerns for the summer since more students are hanging out and not involved in programs.
Roberts also says that he feels there is a lack of community support to help curb the violence, which is why he wants to focus on healing the community from the inside out.
“Programs are being geared up and being put in place,” said Roberts. “Now it’s about making sure the kids, families, individuals have access to that. Marketing is a key strategy that, to know exactly where these services are, who can participate in them, and make sure that you have butts in seats and people can have access to things more wholesome than violence.”
As for curbing violence from a bigger standpoint, the commission is starting to look at other cities that are impacted by high gun violence in order to use their tactics in the Star City.
“That could include environmental changes, like blight; abandoned properties; abandoned cars; things that might need to be enhanced, like lighting; or just neighborhood cleanups. The more people are out and engaged in their neighborhood, the safer they feel,” said Roanoke City Councilman Joe Cobb, head of the Gun Violence Prevention Commission.
At the end of the meeting, the commission made a motion to distribute 8,000 gun locks to families in Roanoke. When it comes to cost, officials say they are working to figure that out.