“It starts with us.” Roanoke leaders and community groups talk about gun violence solutions

Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 10:46 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Roanoke’s Gun Violence Prevention Commission met Tuesday evening to analyze data surrounding crime in the city.

This comes as other community groups are banding together to organize events promoting peace.

Coming from a background in law enforcement, Dr. Isaac Van Patten’s presentation to Roanoke’s Gun Violence Prevention Commission focused on the trends in what he calls de-policing, less interference from police officers on patrol.

He pointed out “hot spots” in Roanoke where crime persists the most.

When asked of community involvement, Dr. Patten says it’s one of the most effective approaches to decrease violence.

“90-95% of the people that live in that neighborhood are good different people who want the violence to quit. But they are scared,” says Dr. Patten. “If they see the community out there actively engaging them in conversation, supporting them, then they’ll start to come out of their houses.”

This is exactly what community leaders like Bishop J.L. Jackson are hoping to do, working alongside neighborhood conflict resolution groups like the Peacemakers Inc. to host a United Against Gun Violence March Saturday, October 16.

“We are calling every organization, every business, every church, the public, in general, to come out and unite against gun violence,” says Peacemakers Inc. President Shawn Hunter.

“Where there’s unity there’s strength, and united we’re able to stand but divided we fall,” says Bishop Jackson. “So we’re coming together. We’re coming to strengthen each other and heal each other and let each other know, I know the pain you’re dealing with.”

Bishop Jackson’s congregation at ReFreshing Church knows the heartbreak of gun violence all too well, with one of its own congregation members, Salonya Evans, being shot and killed in July 2019.

“We want a resolution to all of those cases, we want justice to be served, but we also want to provide healing for all of those cases,” says Bishop Jackson. “It begins with our fathers coming back to our homes, mothers policing our children... sisters and brothers keeping each other in accountability and responsibility. Because if we can stop it in our homes it won’t come to our doorstep.”

The march begins at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Goodwill parking lot off 24th street.


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