Roanoke Gun Violence Prevention Commission’s last meeting of 2021 reveals startling numbers

Roanoke Valley News

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — After the Roanoke Gun Violence Prevention Commission discussed issues that are plaguing the community during their last meeting of 2021, many members say a change is coming to the Star City.

From Jan. 1 through Dec. 6 of this year, the Roanoke Police Department reported 66 aggravated assaults, domestic aggravated assaults, or homicides involving people who were shot. During the same time frame in 2020, there were only 53 such incidents.

(Photo: Courtesy Roanoke City Councilman Joe Cobb)

“In the year-to-date comparison to 2020, our homicides are unfortunately up five from a year ago. Aggravated assaults are up seven,” said Roanoke City Councilman Joe Cobb, who is also the chairman of the commission.

Cobb says he is troubled by the increase in numbers, which is why the commission is focusing so much of its prevention and intervention efforts on youth and young adults.

The report presented during the meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 14 broke incidents down by age, showing that 25 people between the ages of 16 and 25 were victims of aggravated assaults. Meanwhile, 14 people in the same age range were offenders.

Two new members of the Youth and Gang Violence Prevention outreach team, Jermaine Johnson and Antonio Stovall, spoke about how they’re trying to help cut down on the violence between young people.

“We have formed an alliance with the library to help out with the youth to strategically put in place programs,” said Johnson. “What we have coming up this Thursday is that we have put together a team of people that will take 13 of these kids to a hockey game to take these kids out of their environment.”

As a teacher at William Fleming High School, Stovall says he has learned that a lot of the youth lack identity and awareness of who they are. These are some of the concepts he is introducing to his 70 students.

A $500,000 Virginia Gun Violence Intervention Program grant awarded to the Roanoke in July also allowed the city to hire Christopher Roberts as the Youth and Gang Violence Prevention Coordinator, a two-year grant position. Meanwhile, money from the American Rescue Plan will be later budgeted into several grants, programs, and organizations.

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