This past Monday, our City experienced several acts of gun violence that have left us saddened and grieving. Three youth were injured, in two separate incidents, and one youth died from the injuries. Since the beginning of the year, our City has experienced four deaths and seventeen injuries as a result of gunfire. Every one of these incidents represents a person, with a name, a family, and neighbors. The layers of loss and grief are deep. We are all experiencing the effects of trauma. Every one of these incidents also creates a tear in the fabric of our community life that we must work together to mend, heal and prevent from happening again.
On Monday, during the same time of the shootings, a grant writing team for the Gun Violence Prevention Commission was wrapping up submission of documents to the state to receive funding for a Youth and Gang Violence Community Assessment, which will begin soon and continue through the summer. We will be reaching out to youth, families and neighbors throughout our City to hear from you about the impacts of violence in your lives and how we can work together to create greater safety for everyone. We will also be listening to your struggles of survival and the difficulties our youth and families are facing in finding a pathway that gives hope instead of discouragement.
The purpose of the Gun Violence Prevention Commission is to study the issue of gun violence in the community, recommend strategies for prevention, intervention and response to reduce incidents of gun violence and address its effects on the community, and to work with citizens and community partners in developing programs that create meaningful opportunities for positive non-violent pathways for health and wholeness. This work is long-term and complex and requires all of us to work together.
In addition to the Community Assessment, the Commission, with the support of Mayor Lea and the Roanoke City Council, is implementing several initiatives focused on response, prevention and intervention:
- Continued neighborhood outreach from the RESET volunteer team, led by Lloyd Merchant, and the Roanoke Police Department connecting with neighbors experiencing the trauma of violence
- Continued Rapid Response long-term care for families who have experienced loss and trauma with additional resources for support
- A mobile public art project traveling to neighborhoods throughout the City to provide creative expression in addressing violence and creating safer neighborhoods.
- An after-school and summer pilot program on Positive Action – teaching our children and youth how to honor and value themselves while honoring and valuing each other and finding peaceful ways to resolve conflict.
- Basic Trauma Training Workshops for the Community – teaching how to recognize trauma and how to work with each other to carefully navigate pathways to healing.
- Community Outreach events, including youth summits, to receive input on the Community Assessment and to create opportunities for youth to work and play safely right where they live. We are seeking to connect with community partners who are willing to host and/or support these events.
- A Series of conversations with local businesses on how you can partner with the Commission to provide workforce opportunities and mentoring with our youth.
These are a few of the efforts the Commission believes will be effective in reducing violence and increasing safety. We need you. For our City to see reduced violence, our community must answer the call and work together. To participate in or support these efforts, please contact the Commission at GVPC@roanokeva.gov or by calling Joe Cobb, Council Member and Commission Chair at 540-580-9645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are all tired of seeing any of our citizens die from gun violence. We all want our youth to believe and know that their lives matter and that they can have long and fruitful lives. Even as we extend our loving care to the families of these young people and all who are experiencing loss, we also dedicate ourselves to engaging in the important work of making Roanoke a safer City for all.