“We need unity.” Ceasefire initiative launched to stop shootings in Roanoke

Published: Sep. 8, 2023 at 6:55 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Roanoke police agencies are kicking off an initiative called Ceasefire, with the goal of getting people to put down guns and stop shootings that have become pervasive in the city.

City leaders, business owners, pastors, first responders, teachers, and others held a news conference Friday morning with the plea.

“We do not want to see any more souls taken by guns,” said Fed Up co-founder Rita Joyce.

Police data show there have been at least 18 fatal shootings so far in 2023, seven more homicides than in all of 2022.

“Our community is facing a series of problems with the rise of violence in our community,” explained Roanoke City Sheriff Antonio Hash. “Not only by adults now, but we got a lot of young people engaged in this violence.”

Hash said adults and young people are engaged in violence, leading to the Ceasefire Victory in the Valley initiative to create a bridge of hope and support law enforcement.

Hash said another goal is the rehabilitation of inmates, with a response not just needed at jails. Working together and recognizing the importance of direct engagement is key to the initiative, with resources and support to police agencies and increased outreach programs.

The call to action is to drop the guns and stop the violence for at least 30 days.

“Every Sunday morning we’re going to preach it. We’re going to teach it. Every bible study we’re going to tell it, we goin’ to teach it. But we need you to do the same thing wherever you go,” said Reverend Preston Tyler. “We need everybody. We need barbers, teachers, government officials. We’re not looking for 30 days; we’re looking for eternity, but we’re gonna start at 30. Are you with us? We can’t do it by ourselves.”

The city’s clergy developed the campaign alongside the city’s Sheriff. They say it was inspired by the movie “Barbershop.”

“They had one common purpose and that was to make it each day without somebody getting killed and that should be our purpose,” said Reverend Thomas Harper.

They want everyone in the community to do at least one thing to help the cause.

“We have had a violent year and the police department is working to bring justice. We have state and federal resources assisting us, but that’s not the only thing that’s gonna work. We can’t arrest our way out of this. We need prevention, intervention, and response,” said Interim Police Chief Jerry Stokes. “Through this initiative – we can prevent violent incidents from occurring and we will be a much better community than we are today.”

Leaders say you can volunteer with organizations like Fed Up or the Reset team. Leaders say you can get involved include caring for yourself, connecting with pastors or mental health counselors, and talking with family and those you love about gun safety, as safely storing and securing guns will save lives and free gun locks are available at every Roanoke City school, through RPD and the sheriff’s office. He also suggested volunteering with local schools and being a reading buddy or mentor, and if you struggle with anger, find a healthy way to treat that.

“We’re here because our faith compels us to call for an end to violence, and our hope convicts us to call on our city to bring a ceasefire and a victory in our valley, not just a 30-day ceasefire. but a permanent ceasefire,” said Vice Mayor Joe Cobb.

“The main word in community is unity,” added Joyce. “We need unity.”