City of Roanoke appoints gang violence prevention coordinator, continues push for less gun violence

Roanoke City Gun Violence Combatting And Rewards
Roanoke City Gun Violence Combatting And Rewards
Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 4:19 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ/City of Roanoke Release) - The City of Roanoke has appointed a Youth and Gang Violence Prevention Coordinator.

Christopher Roberts was hired to fill the two-year grant position, funded by the $500,000 Virginia Gun Violence Intervention Program Grant awarded to the city in July.

Roberts will coordinate activities and programs between city departments, community groups, stakeholders, and agencies in “the awareness, suppression, intervention and prevention of youth and gang-related activity,” according to the city.

Roberts will also establish and maintain partnerships with appropriate community groups and agencies, assist with data collection, and compile information on a comprehensive Youth and Gang Violence Community assessment report, according to the city.

Roanoke Police issued this statement: “We at the Roanoke Police Department are always looking for more ways to interrupt the ongoing gun violence in the City of Roanoke. Hiring Mr. Roberts as the City’s Gang Violence Prevention Coordinator is just another way we, as a community, can collectively address the effects of gun violence and organized crime on our city. We look forward to collaborating with Mr. Roberts as he assumes his new role, and believe that his work and partnership will be beneficial to the entire City of Roanoke.”

“The addition of Christopher Roberts as our Youth and Gang Violence Prevention Coordinator is a vital component of the City’s multi-faceted response to address gun violence,” said City Manager Bob Cowell. “His experience and skills will be an asset to this important initiative as we work to restore order in our City.”

Roberts’ professional background, according to the city, includes serving at the Roanoke Valley Juvenile Detention Center, Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice, Hope Tree Family Services Cottage, as a member of the Virginia Gang Investigators Associations, and as a board member of the Kirk Family YMCA.

Roanoke Youth and Gang Prevention Coordinator Christopher Roberts
Roanoke Youth and Gang Prevention Coordinator Christopher Roberts(City of Roanoke)

The City of Roanoke also continues its push to reduce gun violence with its Comprehensive Gun Violence Prevention Framework, which focuses on “the community as a whole in partnering with law enforcement, prevention, intervention, and justice.”

The city acknowledges there has not yet been a reduction in gun violence since the committee was formed, but continues to “enhance prevention and safety strategies by working with the community to support the work of law enforcement and the RESET Team.”

Roanoke is also launching a program called Star City Safe, an initiative “focused on expanded services and access to public facilities to keep our youth and neighborhoods safe, as well as in a variety of in-person and virtual formats to keep a two-way dialogue going.”

“We recognize that our work must continue while we focus firsthand on keeping our local communities safe. The Roanoke Police Department continues to address the increase in violent crimes. RPD, along with our community, state, and federal partners, will use every means available to specifically focus on those individuals who choose to engage in acts of violence or organized crime, and we will continue to do everything we can to interrupt the gun violence that plagues the City of Roanoke,” said Chief Sam Roman.

“To reduce gun violence in our City, we need everyone—our business community, our nonprofits, our neighborhood groups, our citizens—to work together,” says City Council Member Joe Cobb. “Having a Comprehensive Gun Violence Prevention Framework will help us more fully engage the entire community and take our response to the next level.”

Commenting on recent violence involving guns in the city, Mayor Sherman Lea urges the community to remain united in working together to prevent gun violence in Roanoke. “We are optimistic that our actions are going to have a positive impact on reducing gun violence in our community, and we will keep working to that end.”

The Roanoke Police Department, in partnership with the U.S. Marshals Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force (CARFTF), recently conducted an operation to serve 331 warrants. The operation removed 26 illegally possessed firearms, fentanyl and other recreational drugs. Police also seized $40,000 in U.S. currency while working the operation.

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