Press "Enter" to skip to content

Stopping local violent crime: Hear from the U.S. Attorney about what’s working

Violent crime continues to be an issue in Roanoke. We’re working for you about what can be done differently.

10 News talked with the U.S. Attorney about his relationship with Roanoke and the partnership with other cities like Danville and Lynchburg.

“It’s amazing what can be done when no one cares who gets the credit,” said Michael Newman, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Danville.

He works with Danville Police and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. At least once a month, Newman says they all meet to review cases. They talk about everything from gun cases to drug cases to see if the prosecution should come from the federal system or the state based on evidence and case law.

Newman said they’re not fighting over who gets the case.

“That has been very pleasant over the last several years that we don’t try to cherry-pick our cases,” said Newman. “We literally sit down and then discuss, ‘All right, well, this is how the state court will look at it. This is how the evidence will come out.’”

Newman said it’s been beneficial for his office and there’s enough crime to go around.

“It is so valuable when there is a Commonwealth Attorney who is willing to sit down with federal prosecutors, and we can just have an honest and candid conversation about where’s the best place for an individual crime to be investigated and prosecuted,” said Chris Kavanaugh, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, covering 52 counties and 17 cities.

He also believes the relationship is important, but not everyone works with their office like Danville does.

“Unfortunately, there are some Commonwealth Attorneys that are less interested in having that conversation. But, we continually will make the effort to reach out to them, to seek that same relationship because we think that if you have federal prosecutorial resources and investigations, then that can help to alleviate the burden on many of these Commonwealth Attorney’s offices, so they can focus on additional priorities that they have in their own communities as well. And we think that’s how we’ve seen success in places like Danville and Lynchburg and Charlottesville,” said Kavanaugh.

10 News asked about the relationship with Roanoke.

“Some Commonwealth Attorneys and local law enforcement agencies are very open in that seek out state and federal partnerships. They are doing so because, in their view, that’s how they feel like they can best serve their community. However, there are some localities as well, that in their own view, they don’t necessarily feel like that’s going to be advantageous to them. I believe they are absolutely serving their communities in the best way that they see fit, but there are others that are less interested in federal partnerships. That is their prerogative, and that is their right,” said Kavanaugh. “They are not required to partner with the Department of Justice, the United States Attorney’s Office, or federal law enforcement agencies. Of course, that’s disappointing. It’s a sentiment that I disagree with.”

Kavanaugh believes partnerships with his office are making an impact on lowering crime in Danville and Lynchburg.

“We’re not seeing the level of engagement by the Roanoke community as far as being accepting of federal involvement like we’re seeing in Charlottesville, Danville in Lynchburg, but they are still meeting,” said Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh also said Lynchburg Police Chief Ryan Zuidema and Commonwealth’s Attorney Bethany Harrison saw what Danville did to turn crime around and are following a similar model, seeking out partnerships under a community policing model, where they can use technology, state and federal resources to help combat violent crime.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said since January 2021, they have worked on 21 cases involving gun crimes and/or straw purchases in Danville and Lynchburg combined. They point to Operation Storytime, a case out of Lynchburg, dealing with drugs and guns as a “great example of the collaboration there”. Jermel Storey was responsible for distributing more than 150 kilograms of cocaine into the Lynchburg area, valued at more than $4.5 million, authorities said. Storey was sentenced to nearly 30 years in federal prison earlier this year.

In Roanoke, the U.S. Attorney’s Office estimates about 100 cases involving gun crimes and/or straw purchases.

We reached out to the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Roanoke City Don Caldwell, asking about how he works with other agencies like the Attorney General’s Office and U.S. Attorney’s Office and he did not want to comment.

We also asked Caldwell what he does in working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to decide which case should be tried federally versus by the Roanoke Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. We did not receive a response.

Source: WSLS News 10

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply