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Roanoke to soon announce hiring of youth and gang violence prevention coordinator

Councilman Joe Cobb said the community needs to have hope that they can curb violence

An upcoming public hearing will allow the commission to hear directly from the people.
An upcoming public hearing will allow the commission to hear directly from the people.

ROANOKE, Va. – The Roanoke City Gun Violence Prevention Commission said they’re making headway in their work to address violence in the city.

Tuesday night the commission met with a lot ahead of them, but plenty to be proud of. Now about six months as an official commission, Councilman Joe Cobb said they’re making forward progress.

“When we talk about new funding coming in to support the prevention and intervention programs that we’ve been working build, we’ve got great community partners and the list of stakeholders in the community continues to grow,” Cobb said.

The group adopted a new logo to help make the community more aware of their work. They’re also planning a public hearing to get feedback from those with something to say.

“If there’s a problem out there, people want to know what’s our local government doing, what can we do, and so if there’s just silence then you just keep speculating,” Cobb said.

Police data shows year-to-date there have been 51 shootings with a victim hit in the city, primarily clustered in the city’s lowest-income neighborhoods. The commission said about half of Roanoke struggles to afford the basics, and poverty is shaping up to be a primary driver of violence.

“We’re looking at ways to more fully engage the community in some of the ‘on the ground’ stuff that people can be involved in, to address prevention and intervention. So I think we’re on a good path,” Cobb said.

The city will soon announce the new youth and gang violence prevention coordinator, along with two other outreach staff dedicated to the mission. Cobb said having those types of resources will make a difference.

“When you’ve got somebody who understands the realities of what youth are experiencing and has some of the relationships already built, you can step in immediately and just build on the work that we’ve done,” Cobb said.

State leaders have also asked the commission to present its work to other localities across the Commonwealth as a model to be followed.