Roanoke City leaders set to approve position for gun violence prevention coordinator

The city council will vote on the initiative this week

ROANOKE, Va. – Roanoke City is looking to help train police officers and hire someone to help coordinate gun violence prevention efforts. It’s different than the Gun Violence Prevention Commission, which is made up of several unpaid community volunteers.

“Proportionally, Roanoke suffers a greater rate of violent crime offenses, particularly gun violence, when compared to the rest of Virginia,” said City Manager Bob Cowell in city council documents. “In recent years, the Roanoke Police Department has lost experience in the cadre of detectives and officers whose primary duty is to respond to or investigate violent incidents. The Police Department needs additional resources to provide officers with quality gun crime and violent incident investigative training.”

Cowell said the Firearm Violence Intervention and Prevention Coordinator would serve under his office and coordinate events led by community members, the police department and already established city initiatives like Star City Safe.

Money for the new position comes from the Firearm Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant. The grant is $223,083 from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice (DCJS) to be used over two years for the position, administrative costs and provide funds for additional violent crime investigative techniques training to Roanoke Police Department officers. The grant term begins Jan. 1, 2024, and will end Dec. 31, 2025.

According to DCJS, “The purpose of this initiative is to support the implementation of strategies that will result in reducing violent crime within the Commonwealth of Virginia, while implementing effective and sustainable intervention and prevention programming to interrupt and prevent local cycles of violence. Projects funded under this program will support Operation Bold Blue Line, an initiative to fight violent crime by standing up for law enforcement and building meaningful partnerships with communities.”

“The City of Roanoke intends to focus on coordinating the gun violence reduction strategy by employing an overall coordinator who will connect the resources and ensure work is not being duplicated or funds unused that could be advantageous to any of the organizations providing work toward gun violence reduction. The coordinator will report the spending of Commission grant funds to the City Manager with oversight by the City Council and coordination with the Gun Violence Prevention Commission,” said Cowell.

City council members will vote to approve the money during Tuesday’s meeting.

Once funding is received, the city’s Human Resources Department will recruit for the position. The recruitment process will result in the selection of the coordinator.

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