Roanoke gun violence task force says progress is being made

Monday night was the third public meeting

ROANOKE, Va. – The Task Force to Reduce Gun Violence in Roanoke said it is making good progress on their mission to stop the killing. The task force started in response to a particularly violent stretch of weeks earlier this year.

They met Monday night for the third public meeting. The group said while there aren't on paper statistics quite yet, the group has created momentum in the community. Monday night they agreed gun violence should be treated like an illness instead of a crime.

Last month they took public feedback on their plan. It's all with the intention of shaping an actionable series of suggestions to deliver to City Council.

"I think considering the really short time line, the task force has come together really well and there's a lot of community energy around this," Vice Mayor Joe Cobb said. "I think we're making good progress."

Monday night they worked with the feedback from August's public hearing and put it two work. Two presentations were also given to the group. The first was by a group of three women. About a decade ago they started FEDUP, founders of families expecting deliverance using prayer.

They talked about how they provided rapid intervention techniques to families of gun violence victims and how they shaped their program. Many on the task force liked what they heard.

Roanoke City Schools chief of security Chris Perkins also presented on what the division is doing to help.

"I think the fact that the school is a microcosm of the community at large and understanding how we are trying to reach the kids may give the task force some ideas on how they can reach our community at large," Perkins said.

The schools are focusing on trauma informed responses and treating violence as a public health issue rather than a criminal one. Perkins also shared how gangs are operating in local schools, just like they are in schools across the country.

"They are bringing that gang activity from the community, they are coming in they're mimicking, or they're playing out these roles that they're being taught," Perkins said.

The task force split up into four work groups, focusing on services, neighborhoods, community engagement, and strong families. It's all working toward the goal of putting real crime solutions in front of City Council.

"Local government, it's public health organizations, it's mental health programs, it's schools it's all of us working together because that's the only way it's going to be really transformative," Cobb said.

Cobb said he expects the task force to continue after its presentation to council. The next meeting is Oct. 14, 7 p.m. at Williams Baptist Church.

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