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Roanoke police create new detection unit to address rising gang violence

Aggravated assaults related to gun violence have nearly doubled this year

As crime continues to rise in Roanoke, a new unit is working to reduce violence.

ROANOKE, Va – As crime continues to rise in Roanoke, a new unit in the police department is working to lower violence and bridge the gap in the community.

Roughly 80% of gun-related incidents in Roanoke have been connected to gang violence, so the police department underwent a realignment to create a new gang detection unit.

“It calls for an unconventional and nontraditional response from our law enforcement which includes building a collaborative effort with our prosecutors with our federal partners with our communities to ensure that together, we’re doing everything we possibly can to combat some of the violence,” Roanoke Police Chief Sam Roman said.

The rise has also prompted the city to hire a Rapid Engagement of Support in the Event of Trauma Coordinator, better known as RESET.

“Some folks don’t know where to turn to in the event of experiencing traumatic appearances, and then that’s what we’re there for,” RESET Coordinator Lloyd Merchant said.

New policing efforts also include visits from the department in hopes of gaining the community’s trust.

“We’re hoping that is going to reduce crime tremendously, there is no there is no guarantee, but the hope is that since we go out there and once we go out there you will lessen the likelihood of criminal occurrences in that area,” Merchant said.

Chief Roman says mass arrests from Operation Streetsweeper earlier this year has slowed some of the violence, but as the Star City prepares to enter the new year, Roman hopes the changes can help the city move forward.

“I think it’s all about working together to solve the problem it’s not one individual’s entity responsibility to solve the crime, you know, we have to come together as a community to solve some of the issues where we’re seeing,” Roman said.


About the Author:

Annie Schroeder joined the 10 News team as a reporter in June 2020 and is no stranger to Southwest Virginia.