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National Night Out in Roanoke continues police effort to reduce gun violence

The Melrose-Rugby block party hosted police 2 months after March for Solidarity

ROANOKE, Va. – Police and community relations have made headlines across the country, and Tuesday night communities coast to coast celebrated National Night Out. It's an opportunity for people to meet with their police and first responders, but for one Roanoke neighborhood, that's experienced a rise in violent crime, the event is taking on more importance.

Just two months ago, the Melrose neighborhood saw not only police, but city council members and people in the community come out for a March in Solidarity. It's because of a rise in gun violence. Police say they've responded to 87 percent more calls for shots fired in the last year and a half, but they hope events like the National Night Out can make a difference.

All over the City of Roanoke Tuesday, ten different outdoor events hosted police and fire crews, but in the Melrose-Rugby neighborhood, people say those bonds could save lives.

"It's about forming relationships on an ongoing basis, independent of some violent incident or some event of this type," said neighborhood president Stephen Niamke.

Niamke organizes the night out every year.

"If you stop and think: Where do the police come from? Where do the firefighters come from? Where do the politicians come from? They come from the community, so we're trying to cultivate those relationships," said Niamke.

Police have been working throughout the year to make those relationships stronger here in Northwest, kicking off with the community march in May. Captain Rick Morrison says that idea of working together is part of the plan they hope will change this neighborhood for the better.

"Events like these, on a National Night Out, not just bringing the police and the fire and rescue together with the community, but to talk about those issues and see how we can work together to make this a better, safer community," said Morrison.

Morrison says now, he's more positive about the future of this neighborhood than ever, because he sees other community organizations coming together to make it happen.

"Like the Peacemakers. You have Feeding America with the Community Solutions Center coming soon... Goodwill is bringing hopefully a fresh market in the next year or so with a library... we're seeing people and groups like this come together and now doing something, and I think that's where you're going to start seeing differences," said Morrison.