ROANOKE, Va. – Roanoke City Council members and the chief of police discussed safety issues in downtown at Monday's City Council meeting. Some council members are concerned there aren't enough police officers patrolling the area during late night hours.
After shots were fired in downtown Roanoke last weekend, council members wanted to know if there were enough police officers to patrol the area when the bars close at 2 a.m. During a presentation before City Council members, Chief Tim Jones said several businesses hire off-duty officers every weekend and there's an additional off-duty officer patrolling the downtown area during peak periods.
On-duty officers provide additional presence as available when the bars close early in the morning. Council member Michelle Dykstra wants to see an increase in officers to help deter crime.
"It's a presence this, not just at the 2 o'clock hour but it's on our heaviest travel days on downtown nights. I do believe the police presence downtown is very helpful," said Dykstra.
Chief Jones says they're also increasing police presence in the area of the Virginia Tech and Carilion facility on Jefferson Street. They are also preparing to have more officers closer to the Amtrak station once it's up and running.
Roanoke police hope to have more than 30 new patrol officers by 2018. A class of about 17 will be graduating from the academy in July and another class in December.
Also, members of City Council voted to pass an amendment to protect how people travel across large intersections. It will soon be prohibited for people to cross at the median. Instead you must cross at a traffic signal. Jones says it's to protect the safety of pedestrians and drivers. He says crossing at the median is a distraction for drivers and this new amendment will minimize the potential for people getting hit by a vehicle.
"Medians are often times the areas where signs are posted. To monitor U-turns or no left turns and pedestrians in those areas many times block the ability for approaching drivers to see those particular traffic indicators or signage where it is necessary for vehicle traffic to make appropriate turns," said Jones.
Chief Jones says the only exception for anyone to be in the median area is for vehicles that are broken down, making a turn or an emergency situation. Police and the council have been working for more than a year to get this amendment passed. There have been four pedestrians killed by moving vehicles when people have stepped out into the road, the last one being last week, when a woman was hit and killed on Orange Avenue.
The council also voted on an amendment of the City Code to designate the Market Square area as a public park.