‘We are losing people’: Roanoke City Council concerned over results of youth and gang violence survey

The survey asked questions about gang involvement, safety in neighborhoods and what resources residents want to see more of

ROANOKE, Va. – During Monday’s Roanoke City Council meeting, members spent hours analyzing the results of a recent survey done on violence and gangs.

The City of Roanoke was one of six localities in Virginia to receive funding from the General Assembly to complete a Youth and Gang Violence Community Assessment. The data was collected between the months of October to December 2021. The results were startling for some council members.

“15% of respondents admitted to one instance of gang-related fights or violence at their school within the last six months,” said one data analyzer during the presentation to city council. “Just about 50% of all participants agreed that it was easy for someone their age to get a gun.”

Mayor Sherman Lea called on his city to do more to combat gun violence, referring to the violence as a crisis.

“People are telling me that their concerns are gangs,” he said. “We need to be much more aggressive because time is not on our side. We are losing people. We are losing young people.”

Councilman Joe Cobb, who is also the chair of the city’s Gun Violence Prevention Commission says they’re working on 20 different initiatives for violence prevention and interruption, but it will take time.

“A lot of this work is longer term. I wish there was a simple solution. one of the challenges and realities is that people are choosing to solve their conflicts by picking up guns and shooting each other and killing each other,” said Cobb.

Answers to the assessment brought up concerns around lack of jobs, access to mental health services, and lack of transportation.

“One of the things we have to focus on is how do we connect the youth and families who need that additional support with the resources that we have and make sure there aren’t barriers to accessing those resources,” said Cobb.

Cobb says the commission will take these results and use them to adjust their programs.

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