Poverty, lack of jobs and mental health contributing to Roanoke’s gun violence

Gun violence prevention advocate on ‘letting the streets handle the streets’ mentality: “We can’t do that because we’re still losing lives.”

ROANOKE, Va. – Sunday’s double homicide marks 26 murders in Roanoke City in 2023 alone.

According to Roanoke Police, it’s the highest number Roanoke has seen since the 1970s.

10 News caught up with Nicole Ross, a member of the group FEDUP, which is an outreach and support group for families who’ve lost loved ones to gun violence. She’s also a member of Roanoke City’s Gun Violence Prevention Commission.

Ross said the impact of gun violence goes beyond the victim and the person who pulled the trigger. She thinks the community is becoming numb to the violence.

On Monday morning, as police continued their investigation into the homicides on Melrose Avenue NW, young children walked by police cars and crime scene tape on their way to the school bus stop.

Ross even shared a personal story of when she heard gunshots while she was at the Melrose library over the summer.

“I heard gunshots and, of course, I’m ducking and I’m looking. And the children around me were just walking because it didn’t phase them. So, this is becoming the new norm,” said Ross. “That is something that we are hoping to change.”

As for what’s causing the violence, Ross said people are hurting and angry.

“There’s poverty. There’s a lack of jobs. There are things like that. There are folks that just need some support,” said Ross. “We say we can’t blame everything on the pandemic, but we can’t omit the fact that that changed a lot. That caused a lot of additional mental health issues that went untreated. So, all of those things combined are causing folks to just not know how to resolve conflict.”

Plus, she said the culture needs to change.

“The community knows more than it’s saying. And I know there’s this sense of you know, letting the streets handle the streets,” said Ross. “We can’t do that because we’re still losing lives.”

Ross is encouraging the community to band together and support one another in the wake of this violence.

“Help each other heal so that we can get rid of the anger. The anger is what’s leading to the violence. Finding out real, real ways to combat the hurt in the community,” said Ross.

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You can watch Lindsey during Virginia Today every weekend or as a reporter during the week!