ROANOKE, Va. – Roanoke city leaders want to tackle gun violence by bringing community members together to brainstorm solutions.
Last year, there were 48 shootings in Roanoke. Thirty-one happened in the northwest part of the city. Vice Mayor Joe Cobb says the statistics are shocking.
"My fear is that we become numb to the reality of it, and it becomes normalized," said Cobb.
Community leaders agree the key to addressing gun violence is about finding the root of the problem and facing it head-on, whether it's addiction, mental illness or a lack of family and community support.
Cosmas Nyabadza has lived in Roanoke for eight years. He says gun violence isn't as bad as in bigger cities, but it's still a problem.
"Some people, that's their normal life. They think that's the way to live," Nyabadza said.
Cobb is working with police to gather data on gun violence from past years to compare trends. Retired police Capt. Rick Morrison says there are always ups and downs.
"Roanoke is not exempt from gun violence. It is a problem. It is a concern," Morrison said.
Now, Morrison works for Feeding America Southwest Virginia at the Community Solutions Center. He would like the center to be a hub for the new initiative. However, first they need to recruit at a grassroots level.
"That core group of people should really have passion to impact gun violence," Morrison said.
He also says gun violence is a citywide problem that impacts more people than victims and their loved ones. Residents may not feel safe in their community while shopping, using public transportation or going to public parks.
Nyabadza says the solution starts with education.
"Educating and changing mindsets doesn't [happen] overnight," Nyabadza said.
City officials are asking interested community members to join the initiative. In a few weeks, they plan to hold a community meeting. If you're interested, contact Cobb or the city clerk's office.