Roanoke City councilmember questions Gun Violence Prevention Commission

Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 5:06 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - In 2021, Roanoke City Council created the Gun Violence Prevention Commission to reduce gun violence in the Star City. Nearly two years later, members are still telling us results will not come overnight. But now one council member is raising concerns that results will not come at all.

In 2021, Better Agreements received $32 thousand from the commission. The non-profit was supposed to train 100 people in conflict resolution by April 2023. Councilwoman Stephanie Moon Reynolds says they failed to do that.

“Let’s talk about Better Agreements. I’m concerned, I’m still hearing from the public that they are not in compliance with their contract,” said Reynolds.

Reynolds says they only graduated 5 women from the program.

Gun Violence Prevention Commission Chair Joe Cobb confirmed that number was correct.

“I think the goal was unrealistic. I think to train 100 in the period of time they were hoping to, with all the variables that are going on in the world right now, was challenging,” said Cobb.

But he argued that given more time it could have been done. Now, after concerns were raised, the city has asked for the money to be given back by the end of the month.

“I wish that city leaders would find a way to champion some of these things and support them, rather than critiquing them or politicizing them, and I’m concerned that’s what’s happened here,” explained Cobb.

Now, Reynolds is questioning other grants given by the group.

“How do you measure the success? With activities? Were there going to be any programs? And at the end of their time, what was going to be in place to sustain it so it can go on?” added Reynolds.

Cobb says groups give quarterly updates to the commission on how they are using the money. But some prevention work is hard to measure.

“We may never know how many acts of violence we’ve prevented because of our efforts,” added Cobb.

But he says they do have the stories from young people and families whose lives they’ve impacted through their programs.

Cobb says the commission has secured $1.5 million for the city through grants and distributed 8,000 gun locks.

But Moon says she would like to see people with a background in criminal justice or even felons have a seat at the table.

Members say these conversations will continue in Tuesday night’s council meeting.