City officials hope to be proactive about gun violence

Roanoke’s Gun Violence Prevention Task Force and local organizations want to keep an open dialogue with community members.
Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 6:19 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Officials with Roanoke’s Gun Violence Prevention Task Force say they not only want more resources and a well-staffed police department, but they want to keep an open dialogue with community members most affected by gun violence.

This past weekend, that violence was unavoidable, as a shooting left two men injured on Campbell Avenue early Sunday morning, with the bar crowd still out and about downtown.

Roanoke City Councilman and task force member Joe Cobb says although the incident Sunday appeared to be a dispute between those people, it’s still unsettling for the rest of the city that it happened in a large, popular public space.

“We don’t condone it; it’s not acceptable. And we as a city want to make sure the offenders know that and plead for them to stop,” says Cobb.

City Council met Monday afternoon to discuss Roanoke’s budget for government employees, in the hopes of increasing base pay and pay increases for Roanoke Police Officers.

The budget, along with the raises for law enforcement, was passed unanimously by the council members.

Cobb says another partnership with Blue Ridge Behavioral Health would establish more mental health resources working alongside law enforcement.

“We have a great Police Department, and we want to address some of the shortages in terms of people power that they have at the department,” explains Cobb. “Part of it’s police, but it’s also the community and the more we’re working together on this solution to healthier and safer our city’s going to be.”

Last month, the task force awarded $65,000 in mini-grants to organizations with plans to help keep kids away from gangs and guns.

Stacey Sheppard with Total Action for Progress (TAP) says the program received $4,500 and is hoping to be more proactive rather than reactive when it comes to violence in the community.

“We’re getting out and we’re talking, and the community is coming together and sharing stories about what’s going on, and being participatory instead of a bystander and watching what’s happening, we really want that community involvement,” says Sheppard. “This isn’t about Second Amendment rights, it’s not about anything like that; it’s about safety and security for our community.”

The task force is also planning a meeting later this week with downtown Roanoke business owners to talk about their concerns after the shooting and other possible solutions.

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