Speaker says Roanoke's "Peacemakers" part of the solution to growing violence

The talk follows the shooting of a 17-year-old in northwest Roanoke last weekend

ROANOKE, Va. – A meeting was held Tuesday night to discuss solutions to the issue of rising gun violence in Roanoke. This follows the shooting of a 17-year-old boy in the northwest section of the city this past weekend. The keynote speaker at the meeting says a growing organization, the Peacemakers, may be the answer.

"We are hope dealers. We come to instill hope in a people that have lost hope," said speaker Dennis Muhammad.

Muhammad is from Columbus, Ohio is the founder of the Peacekeepers, a national movement of community groups that patrol at risk neighborhoods. He says Roanoke's Peacemakers are a long-term solution to the growing problem.

"If we can keep the violence down and stop the killing, then we give our community a fighting, hoping chance to live... To be able to give quality education, to be able to give mentorships, to be able to address HIV or teenage pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse," said Muhammad.

Muhammad's visit follows a community march through northwest Roanoke with an anti-violence message. That march took place on Fairfax Avenue and featured members of the public, city council, and the police department. Mayor Sherman Lea even called for 60 days without violence, but the city only lasted 20 before seeing another fatal shooting. Lea also spoke at the meeting Tuesday to reassure his community of his commitment.

"I don't want anybody to be disappointed or discouraged. There is hope, we're going to stay at it and as Mayor, I'm going to work hard to make sure that everybody is protected," said Lea.

The Peacemakers founder, Shawn Hunter, says that protection will take time. Right now, he plans to be working for at least three years.

"That three year action plan. It takes time, but we are working. The thing is, just as long as we are out there, we are putting action, we are being proactive and we are out there and I think some change is going to take place in Roanoke for the better," said Hunter.

Muhammad says, he believes as the Peacemakers grow, violence in Roanoke will eventually subside.

"They really believe that they can change the reality of this community, and that is so important," said Muhammad.