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The Melrose neighborhood is joining forces to make it a better place to live.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
In recent years, the Melrose neighborhood hasn’t been one that anyone aspired to live in. It’s been a place to leave, even if just for Sunday church services. Slowly, though, a change is taking place.
On Saturday, a prayer walk was organized by neighbors, churches and the Roanoke Police Department — yes, police officers. The department was the first to volunteer to move into the neighborhood, and to heavily police the streets through the Drug Market Initiative, which aims to clean up crime-infested streets and turn them back over to the decent people. Since it began earlier this year, DMI has enjoyed success with a reported 57 percent drop in crime — and more impressive, a 71 percent drop in violent crime.
But decent people need to be ready to claim their streets. Turning a neighborhood around can’t be imposed from the outside; the demand for safe streets and a better community must come from within. Melrose residents have an opportunity right now to make those demands of themselves and to get the help and services they need to see them through.
Residents have a growing partnership with police. They have a new one forming, too, with the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority that seeks their ideas and their involvement to help win a $30 million federal grant — a true and lasting game-changer.
The idea for Saturday’s prayer walk came from Lt. Rick Morrison, who’s been calling on churches across the valley and in the neighborhood to help unite the residents. The goal is to forge relationships and to map out a strategy to keep streets safe and build a stronger community. Melrose is at a turning point. A new direction is possible if leaders — whether clergy or lay people — emerge from within the neighborhood. They must show faith in their neighbors, coax them to believe in themselves and possess the tenacity to follow through.
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