ROANOKE, Va. – A team of volunteers working to combat violence in Roanoke say there isn’t just one solution. The RESET team is comprised of former police officers, mental health professionals, doctors, and business owners formulating the different solutions to the violence problem.
RESET stands for Rapid Engagement of Support in the Event of Trauma. The group of volunteers was organized in Fall 2020 after the Roanoke Police Department received a grant to hire Lloyd Merchant as coordinator.
“Our goal is to provide them useful information they can use for comfort, counseling, or any kind of services that may assist them in dealing with this traumatic experience,” explained Merchant.
Part of the police department’s rapid response team, Merchant and his group of volunteers talk with families and the community to provide support.
To be proactive, the team goes into neighbors seeing violence and simply listens.
The goal is to let them know they have a voice and are heard.
“If you think ‘I’m bad’ then I’m going to act bad,” boldly stated Jermaine Johnson.
Growing up in the neighborhoods seeing the recent violence, Johnson understands the influence of trauma. He manages Redirect Youth Services, a local organization that provides mentorship and support to youth and their families.
“A lot of the parents that were in the neighborhood were also your parent. They held each other accountable for the actions of each child in the community. I think that’s what we’re missing,” opined Johnson.
Decca Knight is a trauma counselor with an area school system and sees the effects of trauma (some new and some generational, she says) throughout the areas plagued with crime.
“A lot of times behavior is looked at through a lens that it is always intentional, that I’m always doing these things to cause harm to somebody else and that’s not true,” explained Knight. “It really has a lot to do with your upbringing, where you have been, what you have experienced.”
RESET has a mission of meeting people where they are, listening and hopefully resetting the thoughts and actions that lead to violence.