Roanoke police chief: 'Association-based' violence contributes to city's 11 percent increase in crime

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - After years of seeing crime numbers drop, Roanoke police saw crime increase in 11 percent in 2016 compared to 2015.

"Roanoke is a safe city, but just like every other city that you go to there is some "association-based" things that people need to be aware of," said Roanoke Police Chief Tim Jones.

During Monday's Roanoke City Council meeting, Jones highlighted factors contributing to the increase, such as opioid addiction and a rising number of "association-based" crimes. These crimes are once where the victim and perpetrator knew each other.

Jones said 75 percent of aggravated assaults and 67 percent of homicides in 2016 involved people who knew each other.

"Late-at-night activities with risky behaviors and risky associations many times in our city have culminated into someone being shot or seriously harmed," said Jones.

Last year, a late-night shooting at Monsters Bar and Grill left one man dead and 10 others hurt. In addition to violent crimes, Jones said mental health is a concern. He said caring for a mentally ill person can strain public safety resources.

"There are times when we have as many as four police officers doing that component {monitoring a mentally-ill person}. That is four police officers who are not in the street, answering calls, engaging in quality life, engaging in incidences trying to make resolutions," explained Jones.

Some of the steps the department has taken to address crime include crime-mapping and working with communities to identify problem areas and concerns like gun violence. Police say 158 firearms were reported stolen. Moving forward, the chief said the public will play a key role in bringing crime numbers back down.

"You can't keep firearms in an unsecure or a locked vehicle because if folks know that you carry firearms in your vehicle they are going to break out the glass,' continued Jones. "Many things that are common sense approach we have to underscore with our public so they are not victimized."

Jones said crime numbers in Roanoke had been decreasing since 2013. He said an increase in crime is being seen nationwide.

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