Roanoke Police adding gang detective unit amid new department realignment

Published: Oct. 9, 2020 at 11:48 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - In response to an uptick in violence this year, major changes are coming to the Roanoke Police Department.

11 officers are set to be promoted within the next week. Some are being pulled off patrol duty as part of a restructuring effort.

A new gang detective unit is set for launch on November 1.

“A little bit of reshuffling from patrol to focus on the gun violence and the reduction of it," said Officer Joshua Johnson, who briefed members of the city’s gun violence task force about the changes on Friday.

He said the restructuring will help his department better align with federal partners including US Marshals, FBI, DEA, and ATF.

“It’s hoping to streamline communication. A lot of our people are working on the same things and so getting them over to investigations will help streamline that," said Johnson.

According to Johnson, RPD is currently short 30 officers and is looking to hire two new crime analysts.

“To help us kind of strategically place resources where we need to be, that’s going to be a huge help for us," said Johnson.

All of these changes come as the city faces a major increase in violent crime.

We have already seen 10 more aggravated assaults involving guns than all of last year.

We’ve also seen eight homicides involving firearms and three without.

Last year there were a total of 11 homicides involving gunfire, with 10 coming by the first week in October.

“A lot of the parties are known to each other, a lot of the issues are cooperation with witnesses and victims, so [we’re] still seeing the same struggles," said Johnson.

The city is narrowing in on a new crime mitigation specialist, who will respond to crimes along with police to help victims' families.

We’re told a candidate has been selected and the hiring process should be completed within the next 10 days.

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