Gun violence task force targeting kids in Roanoke

‘If we do not attack this problem, it’s only going to get worse.’

ROANOKE, Va. – A different kind of pandemic is infecting the Star City: gun and gang violence.

“We are really dealing with a pandemic in ourselves and our community of gangs,” said one guest speaker, Jermaine Johnson. “If we do not attack this problem, it’s only going to get worse.”

Friday, Roanoke City’s gun violence task force held its virtual monthly meeting to discuss the next move.

Roanoke City Police presented information about gun violence incidents to the group. In 2020, there were 58 incidents where someone was hit by gunfire. There were 12 homicides.

As of Wednesday, there have been five incidents where someone was hit by gunfire and one homicide.

Community and city leaders put their heads together to find a solution. Members talked about the positive influence sports and adult mentors can have on young kids.

“It’s about showing up. We have to show up,” said Johnson.

They also discussed the need to target kids in middle school and younger, as well as how to reach teenagers and young adults already involved in gangs.

“How do we begin to actively have a conversation with individuals that are actively still involved, ‘How do you get out?’ and ‘How do we help you get out?’”

Guest speakers included criminal justice experts from Richmond and Petersburg giving their insight on how they’re tackling gun violence in their communities.

The task force is launching a Positive Action pilot program for 30 elementary-aged students through the West End Center, Boys & Girls Club and the Presbyterian Community Center. Positive Action is an evidence-based curriculum shown to reduce crime and violent behaviors.

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