As gun violence declines in Rocky Mount after state of emergency, city leaders say the work continues

14 June 2022

— Gun violence in Rocky Mount has fallen significantly since the city declared a symbolic state of emergency in early May.

Instead of celebrating, city leaders are doubling down on their efforts to fight crime.

The first week of May saw four murders in Rocky Mount, culminating with a fatal shooting inside a Chili’s restaurant.

“It was devastating man, and just heartbreaking,” said Rocky Mount Ward 4 city councilmember T.J. Walker.

The city took action during an emergency council meeting the next day on May 7, bringing in a federal task force to take on gun violence in Rocky Mount, and issuing a state of emergency for crime.

“That was a symbolic gesture saying we need to wake up, we need to be aware, we need to try to change all of this,” Rocky Mount Mayor Sandy Roberson said.

Rocky Mount police use community engagement to tackle crime

In the five weeks since the implementation of the federal task force, there’s been one homicide in Rocky Mount, a dramatic decline.

However, city leaders told WRAL News the real work has just begun.

“One thing we want to do is make sure we’re being proactive and not reactive,” Walker said. “We don’t want to wait until tragedy hits and spikes.”

Walker said the plan to take on gun violence would go beyond enforcement and into the community.

Efforts have included his young men’s leadership academy, as well as partnering with neighborhood leaders to use their voices for change.

“You have to get to the grassroots of the issue to really be able to help change the trajectory of some of the violence and crime,” Walker said.

On the enforcement side, Rocky Mount Police Chief Robert Hassell said the federal task force would remain active in the city until he felt it was no longer necessary.

The mayor also told WRAL News that the state of emergency would continue indefinitely as well.

“It’s something we’re going to have to continue to check in on, and nobody wants to say we’re done, we’ve claimed the victory, because it’s just an ongoing battle,” Roberson said.

Walker told WRAL News that the city council was planning to budget for a new targeted crime-fighting effort from the police chief.

“For the upcoming fiscal year, the City’s proposed budget includes $100,000 in funding for strategies and activities helping to reduce and address violent crime … the spending of these funds will be determined in the future by City Council,” said Corporal Ricky Jackson, a spokesperson for the Rocky Mount Police Department.

Man treated for gunshot wound

On Tuesday, first responders in Rocky Mount treated a man for a gunshot wound after his car was shot into on South Church Street.

Dominique Lynch is facing non-life threatening injuries, police said.

Police are conducting a shooting investigation at a home on Smith Street. There were at least a dozen shell casing markers on the ground.

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