New report released on Roanoke gun violence statistics

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — On Tuesday, the Roanoke Gun Violence Prevention Commission held a task force meeting to address the increase in crime in the community, particularly shootings in the Northeast area. west of Star City.

Between Jan. 1 and May 8, the Roanoke Police Department says there were 21 cases of serious gun-related assaults and six gun-related homicides in the city — up compared to 13 aggravated assaults and five homicides at this time last year. It also marks an increase from the 20 cases reported between January 1 and April 12.

The new report released Tuesday, May 10 divided Roanoke into four areas to show the locations of 26 aggravated assaults or homicides involving victims hit by gunfire:

  • Zone 1 (southeast): Two cases
  • Zone 2 (northeast): Six cases
  • Zone 3 (southwest): Two cases
  • Zone 4 (north-west): 16 cases

In addition, officials say the number of people calling to report hearing gunshots has increased since last month. Specifically, the department said it received 67 such calls this year, either through 911 or through a non-emergency hotline.

However, when it comes to when these crimes occur, authorities tell WFXR News the numbers are all over the place. From January 1 to May 8, these crimes occur almost at any time of the day, sometimes more than once a day.

Meanwhile, police say many of the victims of serious gun-related assaults or homicides this year are young adults or black men.

At the task force meeting on Tuesday, Youth and Gang Violence Prevention Coordinator Christopher Roberts shared his concerns for the summer as more and more students hang out and don’t not participate in the programs.

Roberts also says he thinks there is a lack of community support to help curb the violence, which is why he wants to focus on healing the community from within.

“Programs are being developed and put in place,” Roberts said. “Now it’s about making sure children, families, individuals have access. Marketing is a key strategy that, to know exactly where these services are, who can participate in them, and to make sure that you have butts in the seats and that people can access healthier things than violence.

In terms of combating violence from a broader perspective, the commission begins to look at other cities affected by gun violence in order to use their tactics in Star City.

“This could include environmental changes, like blight; abandoned properties; abandoned cars; things that might need improvement, like the lighting; or just neighborhood cleanups. The more people are out and engaged in their neighborhood, the safer they feel,” said Roanoke Councilman Joe Cobb, head of the Gun Violence Prevention Commission.

At the end of the meeting, the commission offered to distribute 8,000 gun locks to Roanoke families. As for the costs, officials say they are working to figure it out.