Sen. Tim Kaine meets with Roanoke Valley leaders to discuss gun violence and community safety

Published: Mar. 25, 2022 at 11:37 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - US Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Roanoke Valley leaders discussed the issue of community safety for close to two hours at Melrose Library Friday afternoon.

“It reminded me of when I was City Councilman, Mayor in Richmond. We were the second highest homicide city in the United States. It was a painful time and it was slow going but we made progress. But we only made progress when we really had everybody around the table.”

“This problem is going to be solved through a collective, collaborative approach,” said Roanoke Police Chief Sam Roman.

Leaders across the Roanoke Valley including Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea and Councilman Joe Cobb, Blacksburg Mayor Leslie Hager-Smith, members of the Gun Violence Prevention Commission, Roanoke Police Chief Sam Roman and Sheriff Antonio Hash, Roanoke City Public Schools leaders and community members voiced their concerns to Senator Kaine.

The trauma of gun violence came up often.

“Everyone knows this is a problem in our community,” one resident said.

It led to a lot of discussion about the need for more mental health resources.

“There are really significant mental health needs and we’ve got to make sure we have the resources and the trained work force to deal with it,” said Sen. Kaine.

“You wanna have low barrier mental health support. Meaning that there’s not a lot of cost associated with it. Maybe you don’t have to have insurance, maybe you don’t have to take the bus to get there. You want to take down all the barriers that you can, so that individuals that really need that help have access and then also address the stigma,” said Decca Knight, a licensed professional counselor.

Another main priority was getting more involved with kids across the community.

“The biggest thing I hear is they feel like they don’t have a voice,” said one community member.

For Eddy Watkins, a youth mentor at Melrose Library, family support for the kids at home is also just as important.

“It’s one thing for me to give that child some good advice and try to lead them in the right direction, but they have to go back home or they have to go back into the community.”

The urgency of identifying a plan to stop the issue was clear, though.

“I am willing to sit down at the table, I know the Chief of Police can say the same thing, and come up with a plan to move forward. Because if we don’t come up with a plan, we are going to be at this table again in six months having the same conversation,” said Sheriff Antonio Hash.

Senator Kaine said it’s up to Roanoke leaders to find the best plan to work for them.

“There’s no one size fits all on this, every community is different. If you have folks around the table, you can come up with the right plan.”

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