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Roanoke leaders work with downtown businesses to improve safety as gun violence rises

Several meetings and conversations have taken place after a shooting nearly two weeks ago

Since a shooting in a crowd in Downtown Roanoke, city leaders are working to address gun violence.
Since a shooting in a crowd in Downtown Roanoke, city leaders are working to address gun violence.

ROANOKE, Va. – Since a shooting in a crowded downtown Roanoke just over two weeks ago, city leaders are working to address the rise in gun violence.

Safety is a top concern for small businesses downtown like Ernie’s.

“Shootings happen everywhere, unfortunately, we’re no different,” Ernie’s Co-Owner Scotty Smith said.

City council member Joe Cobb was part of a meeting with more than three dozen business owners to address safety concerns shortly following the shooting.

“We want to make sure that businesses throughout our city have input and can be a part of the solution,” Roanoke City Councilor Joe Cobb said.

Cobb says one of the top concerns he heard was although there were at least nine police officers downtown at the time of the shooting, it still happened.

“There’s kind of, kind of this strange feeling that the people who are doing the shooting don’t really care, but the businesses care,” Cobb said.

Cobb also leads the city’s gun violence prevention commission and says it was important to share their efforts and show how other neighborhoods have similar experiences.

“Downtown is a neighborhood, just like Gainsborough is a neighborhood just like Morningside the neighborhood, Belmont. Melrose, so we’re all in this together,” Cobb said.

But still, for places like Ernie’s changes can’t come soon enough.

“It’s getting harder every week. I mean, the shootings, the homeless, there’s a lot of bad right now around everywhere,” Smith said.

Cobb says the city is doing everything in its power to address the violence and systemic issues that come with it so everyone can enjoy it and feel safe.

“We believe that to reduce violence in any form, our city we need our business community. We need our nonprofit. We need our neighborhood groups, We need our citizens,” Cobb said.

Some businesses downtown have started adding additional lighting to areas downtown in hopes of preventing more crime from happening.

About the Author:

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