9:02 PM EDT, July 16, 2012
People in one Roanoke neighborhood say they're no longer afraid to go outside. Last December police started a new program to fight crime and it's working.
"On a typical night you'd hear gun shots, you'd actually see drug deals going down," says resident Jeff Artis.
That was one year ago on this street, Rorer Avenue, in Roanoke.
Artis says people now feel safe walking down the street. He credits a program by the Roanoke police.
It's called the Drug Market Initiative. It gives non-violent, first time drug dealers a second chance. They can avoid jail through counseling and job training.
Numbers from Roanoke Police show the difference one year can make.
Since 2011, violent crime in this area has dropped 42%. Drug crimes are down 32% and weapons offenses have decreased 75%.
"Now our biggest problem is picking up trash that you know young folks leave," says Artis.
Artis says children are the next step in fighting crime.
"We know for a fact that young kids in Roanoke are being recruited by the gangs as early as third grade," says Artis.
A sad reality that this neighborhood wants to change.
When the program began there were five drug dealers taking part. Three of the five are still involved.
Copyright © 2013, WDBJ7-TV