Update Given On Berke Violence Reduction Initiative

Wednesday, December 11, 2013
- photo by Hollie Webb

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke held a meeting Wednesday morning to discuss with community members and stakeholders progress made by his Violence Reduction Initiative.

Mayor Berke describes the VRI as a “targeted strategy to decrease violence in the region.” The program was based on principles from the National Network of Safe Communities that have been implemented in other cities, including Boston and Chicago. He said using these principles has resulted in a reduction in violence in these areas.

These principles include narrowing the focus to a problem such as homicide or gun violence, finding the people who are driving the problem, and then creating a channel of communication between the offenders, law enforcement, and the community. Mayor Berke said, “These principles work; that’s why we’re employing them.”

Back in October, the Chattanooga City Council voted to hire nationally renowned criminologist and co-chair of the NNSC David Kennedy to help tailor the plan specifically for Chattanooga. Mr. Kennedy is currently a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City as well as the director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control.

The tailoring and adjustment process is ongoing; last month, crime data analysts came to Chattanooga to perform “crime mapping.” This allows city authorities to see where violent crime is the most concentrated and to pinpoint the networks of people involved.  

After Mayor Berke’s presentation, Professor Kennedy spoke to reporters through a conference call.

He said, “My interest is not as much crime as it is communities.” He explained that while many communities all over the country need work in terms of economic development and education, that will never happen if people “are scared to go outside.”

He said that his plans were first tried out in Boston in the mid-1990s. He said, “What we learned in Boston was a really shocking proportion of homicide was driven by a small number of people operating in gangs or groups.”

According to his research and experience, these groups “aren’t what people think of as gangs most of the time.” He said typically, these groups are “pretty disorganized” and “mostly hurt one another.” On average, he said group members have 10 or more prior felony convictions.

Professor Kennedy told reporters that he has never seen a city successfully get rid of these groups. Therefore, he focuses on changing their behavior instead. In his plan, this is accomplished through working with community leaders. Professor Kennedy said the message of the community to members of violent groups was that “the community rejects the violence and needs it to stop.”

He said, “Cities usually begin this process with a demonstration arrest.” In Chattanooga, 32 men were recently arrested as part of the initiative. He said this “shows what will happen so that people don’t want to touch that hot stove.” He suggested that after a roundup like that, others involved in violent crime “may be a great deal more interested in making a change.”

For those who did want to change their lives, he emphasized the outreach and support part of his plan. He said people who’ve been involved in violence needed “new friends, new community, and ways to let go of the trauma, even clinical PTSD that many of them deal with.” He said, “If you are a group member and you want out, the city has put together a special support system for you.”

- Photo2 by Hollie Webb

Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ADKINS, PAMELA FAYE  10120 CLAIRE CIRCLE SODDY DAISY, 37379  Age at Arrest: 49 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County EVADING ARREST VIOLATION OF PROBATION(THEFT OF PROPERTY) VIOLATION OF PROBATION(THEFT OF PROPERTY) --- ANDRES, FELIPE  2001 28TH ST CHATTANOOGA, 37404  Age ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Firefighters Locate Lost Hiker At Rainbow Falls Trail Area

Signal Mountain firefighters located a lost hiker at the Rainbow Falls Trail area on Saturday afternoon. At 5:35 p.m. , Signal Mountain firefighters responded to 300 Ohio Ave. regarding a female hiker lost on the trails. At 5:45 p.m. , fire officials on the scene reported rescue teams entered the woods and hiked about one mile on the trail until they made physical contact ... (click for more)

Pedestrians Have The Right Of Way - And Response (2)

Often I visit Gold's Gym at Chestnut and 4th Street. I  park in the theater parking lot at Broad and 4th Street.  I depend on the walk signs to get me there safely.  Most days I almost get hit by someone turning left or right coming from the exit ramp off 27 or turning right on 4th street from Chestnut. This happened yesterday as I was almost mowed down by a garbage ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Girls - ‘I Can And I Will’

Every night after the Rodriguez girls went to sleep not that long ago in a grim, rat-infested basement apartment on Chicago’s South Side, their father – a boxing referee who came to America from Puerto Rico -- would kneel beside the girls’ bed and whisper in each child’s ear. Their parents made them sleep hot-dog style, tightly wrapped in the same sheet and pressed together to protect ... (click for more)

Unbeaten Baylor Volleyball Sweeps Three Region Foes

The Baylor Lady Red Raider volleyball team made a successful trip to Nashville this weekend where they remained unbeaten after 14 matches with wins over three region foes. Friday's match had Baylor sweeping Pope John Paul II by scores of 25-5, 25-10 and 25-11 before sweeping Ensworth and Father Ryan on Saturday.  Scores in the first match were 25-15, 25-12 and 25-5 while ... (click for more)

Mocs Volleyball Win Two Chattanooga Classic Matches Saturday

The Chattanooga Mocs volleyball team captured 3-0 sweeps against Presbyterian College and Mississippi Valley State on Saturday, their third sweep in as many matches as part of the Chattanooga Classic – presented by Hampton Inn & Suites (Downtown Chattanooga) – held in Maclellan Gym. The Mocs won the first two sets by scores of 25-10 and 25-14 before clinching the match ... (click for more)