Police: Overall Roanoke crime dropped in 2021, but violent crime spiked 16%

Virginia State Police reported an increase in violent crime across the state in 2021

Overall crime numbers have dipped, but violent crime spiked 16%

ROANOKE, Va. – On Tuesday, the Roanoke City Council discussed crime rates in our area.

Police said that overall crime in Roanoke has dropped in 2020 in their reports, but violent crime has spiked significantly.

Roanoke saw an increase of 16.5% in violent crime, and crime overall dropped 1.8%.

Roanoke City Police Chief Sam Roman presented his department’s annual public safety report to the city council Tuesday.

Homicides, domestic violence - aggravated assault, and car thefts increased from 2020 to 2021.

Aggravated assault, robbery, and larceny incidents decreased. In fact, robbery dropped 20%.

But not all crime decreased, and one increase in crime shocked the city council: a 113% increase in rape.

“The rape is really what disturbs me,” said Councilwoman Stephanie Moon Reynolds.

“It’s never the victim’s fault. It’s the fault of the person who doesn’t accept that no means no,” stated Councilman William Bestpitch.

Chief Roman acknowledged the startling statistics and said there are likely more victims of rape as the crime is severely underreported.

Roman said his department has made changes to combat this crime, like changing who investigates these crimes to hopefully make the reporting process easier for victims.

Roman added his department ranks this effort as high as it does things like gun violence, another violent crime riddling the Roanoke area.

“We’re going to continue to partner and do whatever we can to ensure our victims, whether male or female, feel comfortable coming forward and hold those responsible for the crime accountable,” said Roman.

Northwest Roanoke was hit the hardest by gun violence in 2021: There were 15 homicides in the city and 50 aggravated assaults in which a firearm was used.

187 firearms were reported stolen in 2021, with most reports coming from Southeast and Northwest areas of Roanoke.

Reports said that 93 of the firearms were stolen from vehicles, 38 firearms were stolen during larceny activity, and 18 firearms were stolen during a burglary.

The city’s Rapid Engagement of Support in the Event of Trauma (RESET) team responded 39 times in 2021, according to the report.

Led by Lloyd Merchant, the team has linked 9 families or individuals with counseling and support services.

The Chief says this is a success and most of this work leads to mentorship, especially with youth.

The RESET team is welcoming new volunteers. For more information, click here.

Less violent crimes were reported, too.

In January 2021, the “Hands-Free VA” law went into effect, and a total of 227 tickets were written by RPD officers.

The Roanoke police chief is hoping to beef up his traffic safety officer team and also talked about traffic stops by zones.

“It looks like the number of stops in Northeast (Zone 2) 51% of the time resulted in a ticket. In Southwest (Zone 3), 47% of stops resulted in a ticket. In Southeast (Zone 1), only 36% and Northwest (Zone 4) only 38%,” explained Councilman Bestpitch.

Click here to watch the meeting.

About the Author:

McKinley Strother joined the WSLS 10 News team in June 2020. He anchors 10 News at 6 and 11 on Saturdays and Sundays and you'll also catch him reporting during the week.