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Candidates for Roanoke City Commonwealth’s Attorney share approach to gun violence

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 6:43 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Wednesday, it was covered in caution tape. Thursday, the Stop In on Melrose Avenue was the setting for a candidate to share his approach to stopping gun violence.

“I am on a mission, and that mission is to make Roanoke safer.”

A mission that Democratic candidate for Commonwealth’s Attorney Melvin Hill shares with incumbent Don Caldwell about the surge of gun violence in the city of Roanoke.

Same mission, but different approach.

“This is what I plan to do if I am elected Commonwealth’s Attorney for the city of Roanoke,” begins Hill. “Each assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney will be assigned a part of the city, and in that part of the city, we will talk to churches, we will deal with the schools, we will partner with the D.A.R.E program.”

Hill also wants to assign assistant attorneys to interdict and prosecute gangs in Roanoke and partner with federal authorities to eliminate gang activity.

“My program is going to involve interdiction, incarceration, education, and rehabilitation of those younger people,” he adds.

Caldwell believes the job should stay in court.

“The function of my office is to prosecute cases that are brought to us by the police,” he says. “That is our soul function. We do not have staff to go out into the community and act as cheerleaders. The Roanoke City Police Department does a great job of investigating crime.”

Caldwell also spoke about strict punishment when prosecuting cases in the city.

“I hate to see anybody go to jail but some people need to go and need to stay there. There are many progressive moves that have been made in the last four to eight years that are not necessarily good for strict enforcement of the law.”

Meanwhile, Hill says he would leave some room for rehabilitation.

“I think the emphasis on the juvenile system has been too much on the incarceration and the punishment,” he notes.

Hill believes that through social programs and community outreach, the spike in gun violence can be stopped from the root.

Caldwell, having held the office since 1979, does not believe the solution is that simple.

“How we address that small percentage obviously isn’t easy or we would have an answer already.”

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