DANVILLE, Va. – The evidence of gang activity in Danville is well-documented, from crime scenes like the one in August of 2017 where a 17-year-old was shot and killed to graffiti on an ice machine outside a convenience store.
It is a problem the city began focusing heavily on in January of 2017 with the implementation of a national program known as the comprehensive gang model.
"We've gone through the data collection phase and we're working on the strategic plan development phase," Danville city manager Ken Larking said.
Larking said the new coordinator, Robert David Sr., will be in charge of making sure the city goes through that phase properly and successfully implements the strategic plan once it's developed.
"In the meantime, we have some good ideas of what we should be doing. So that doesn't mean we're waiting until we have a strategic plan to start doing some of these things," Larking said.
Even so, everyone involved in the implementation of the comprehensive gang model doesn't always have time to focus on implementation.
That's where David comes in.
"Everybody else involved has their day job or their other job that they focus on, so doing the activities related to implementing the model sometimes takes a back burner, even when we don't really want it to," Larking said. "This way, it's always going to be on the front burner, it's going to be a high priority, and we're going to, I think, see some real good benefits from it."
David currently works as a juvenile court counselor in Rockingham County, North Carolina and has his own life coach and recovery service.
He said he is excited about all of the resources available in Danville.
"I'm not coming in to recreate the wheel, I'm just coming in to put the wheel on an axle; just connect people and connect resources," David said. "Danville, from studying the area, there's a ton of resources. They're already doing a ton of things to empower the youth in the community. I we just all need to be connected and that's what I'm there for."
He plans to focus on "grassroots people" who "already have their hands on the wheel."
"Gang activity, like anywhere, if you're going to do intervention, that means you're going to have to provide some work opportunities, some other avenues for those older gang members and intervene to change their way of living," David said.
For younger people not already in a gang, prevention efforts are the goal.
"From what I've seen, everybody has a desire to solve this problem. I just think (there's) a lack of communication; not by choice but just by design because (the comprehensive gang model) is just a new situation," David said.
The city has been approved for reimbursement funding from the state attorney general's office to cover the cost of the coordinator position through October.
"We're anticipating getting additional funding to continue the position after that," Larking said.
Larking said the exact amount that will be needed is unclear, but estimates $100,000.
That will cover David's salary and any supplies, such as a desk or computer, needed to set up his office in city hall.
"The reporting structure hasn't totally been laid out. We want to be able to follow all the guidelines that are set out for us in the grant (from the state attorney general's office), so we're going to be looking at that to make sure it's done properly," Larking said.
Danville Police Chief Scott Booth was part of the interview process for potential candidates and believes David Sr. is the right man for the job.
"He has passion for this type of work, and I think passion goes a long way. He has experience dealing with gangs," Booth said. "He has a passion for injecting himself in communities and solving gang-related problems."
Booth is hopeful David will be able to help de-escalate some conflicts in the community before they require police involvement.
"I believe he can be a resource in the aftermath of a violent crime if there's some sort of gang nexus," Booth said. "It allows (police officers) to focus on other areas where we're needed and not necessarily serve in that, sometimes, social worker role."
Booth worked with people in similar roles during his time with the Richmond Police Department, but he said this will be his first experience working with a true gang prevention coordinator.
"I think the role has tremendous responsibility and I think that we have a lot of potential to really shape some great programs here that can impact the lives of a lot of folks and reduce our crime and suppress these gangs that have taken root in our neighborhoods," Booth said.
"He'll be available to talk to anybody in the community that has suggestions," Larking said. "What we're going to do is try to be proactive, though. We are planning for him to go out into the neighborhoods and talk to people, leaders in the neighborhoods about the programs they have in place."
David's first day on the job is June 11.