Big city initiative aims to 'interrupt' violence in Roanoke

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) -- Delegate Sam Rasoul and community activist Shawn Hunter said they hear the calls to stop the violence in northwest Roanoke.

"The ultimate goal is to prevent them from having to go across the street to go to this funeral home right here," Hunter said of the men and women attending funerals of friends or loved ones killed in an act of violence. "That's what we're trying to prevent," he said.

The pair is now working to bring Interrupters to the Star City, a model implemented in violent cities across the country. Interrupters brings people in the community together to fight violence in the way similar to health care workers who fight disease.

"In order to go in and interrupt the cycle of violence you've got to first quarantine and obviously just like any other health care epidemic, those health care workers put themselves on the front line," Rasoul said. "There's always potential for risk there, but there are a lot of folks who want to take that risk in order to improve our community."

A number of organizations, including Paradise Cathedral Community Outreach Center will come together Saturday, September 24 for the 100 Fearless Men Movement. It's there Rasoul and Hunter hope to recruit 20 men or women, insiders so to speak, who can be trained and later dispatched to intervene and defuse a violent situation.

"What often happens is that there's a moment of violence and then there's a tit-for-tat back-and-forth. So if you can get in and interrupt that cycle, then hopefully you can limit the amount of violence in the community," said Rasoul.

Hunter said not everyone can be an interrupter, but those who can, he says, can make a difference.

"The best people we are looking for our people that are from the community, probably have criminal backgrounds and have pick themselves up from things, bad things, how they used to live but they had a change of life. They can empathize. They can speak from experience where they've been. They can show other people the results of the things that they're doing."

Hunter said taking a minute to step in, could ultimately prevent violence all together.

"A whole lot of people react before thinking. You got to think if I do this what are the results of my actions and that's what people are not doing. That's why were interrupting to be able to talk to them because sometimes if you can quell something for one minute you can prevent it."

The 100 Fearless Men Movement is Saturday from 11 am to 5 pm at Eureka Park.

Training for interrupters is expected to begin in November.