LYNCHBURG, Va. – Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares says it’s going to take a team effort to try and address the issue of gun violence throughout the Commonwealth.
On Tuesday, Miyares was joined by U.S. Attorney for the Western District, Christopher Kavanaugh, and Lynchburg Commonwealth’s Attorney Bethany Harrison for an update on Operation Ceasefire, an initiative launched by the Attorney General back in October 2022.
“In order to tackle violence it’s going to require everyone coming together,” Miyares said.
Operation Ceasefire is a proven approach to addressing violent criminal activity among repeat violent offenders, as well as by investing in gang prevention, supporting victim protection funding, supporting community policing in high-crime neighborhoods, and getting the most violent and repeat offenders off the streets.
Miyares said a lot of the violence we’re seeing is mostly done by repeat offenders.
“Anywhere between 2-5% of violent offenders are committing in a locality roughly 50% of the violent crime. So it makes sense if you want to lower crime, you go after that 2-5%,” Miyares said.
The Operation Ceasefire approach has a strong focus on arresting and prosecuting repeat offenders.
Roanoke Police Chief, Sam Roman, said while his department can do everything in its power to go after the repeat offenders, it’s equally as important to prosecute them justly.
“That’s just one piece of the ecosystem. We want to ensure that the prosecutorial piece is also in place so when we have those individuals who have no self-accountability, that there is a system in place to also hold them accountable,” Roman said.
U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia Christopher Kavanaugh said his office is very focused on going after the select few who are causing the most harm.
“My directive to my team is not to go out and arrest as many people as possible. We are seeking the most high-quality valued targets. The one’s that are having the greatest impact on our communities,” Kavanaugh said.
While there is a heavy focus on repeat offenders, Miyares made it clear that anyone who commits a violent crime will be prosecuted accordingly.
“Their jurisdiction does not end at a certain neighborhood or certain street. It is absolutely collaborative. If you’re committing violent acts, we’re absolutely going to be holding you responsible,” Miyares said.
Miyares also says Operation Ceasefire is not just about prosecution but about prevention as well.
“We can have individuals that can provide what law enforcement oftentimes can’t. That’s life skills, that’s counseling, that’s substance abuse. The idea is to break the cycle, to make sure the young people have both hope but also that they’re given the right information,” Miyares said.
Operation Ceasefire is implemented in multiple cities across Virginia including Lynchburg, Roanoke, Danville, and Martinsville.
Miyares said they are distributing grant money, adding new prosecuting positions, and have already launched over 70 active cases.