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

Family Makes Treasure Trove Of Early Chattanooga Photographs Available For Book; Stokes Collection Has Been Passed Down To Descendants

A treasure trove of Chattanooga photographs that have been passed down in the Stokes family for generations has now been assembled in an upcoming book. Chattanooga Around The Turn Of The Century: The Remarkable Stokes Collection will be published by Chattanoogan.com. Pre-orders are now being taken for the book, which includes over 700 photos on large-size pages. Publisher ... (click for more)

Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report - And Mug Shots

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: BALLARD, ANTHONY MONTREL     2401 S CHAMBERLAIN AVE.#2 CHATTANOOGA, 37404     27     Chattanooga          VIOLATION OF PROBATION (DOMESTIC ASSAULT) BEAN, BO     HOMELESS CHATTANOOGA,     42    ... (click for more)

How To Reform The City Industrial Development Board - And Response (3)

My aims is to bring to the public’s attention the need for procedural changes that, if implemented, would significantly improve the information available the public, to the City Council and to the City Industrial Development Board about the verifiable benefits and costs of tax incentive financing structures and to make the entire process transparent. The public, the City ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: My October Garden

Hark! It is the first day of October and, as I make my monthly stroll through the garden, I find a growing numbers of leaves and acorns. Autumn leaves are beautiful while acorns are nuts, thus you will get the idea as we make our monthly awards: A PRETTY LEAF to Phil Hughes after the Minnesota Twins pitcher came within one inning of earning a $500,000 bonus this season. The deal ... (click for more)

Notre Dame Earns Senior-Night Soccer Victory

Honoring the team’s nine seniors was a focus of Tuesday night’s girls’ soccer match at Notre Dame, but it wasn’t the top priority for the Lady Irish. They knew that a win over visiting Signal Mountain would secure a first-place finish in District 7-AA, and their mission was to earn it. Notre Dame did just that, making Emma Higgins’ early goal stand for a ... (click for more)

UTC Men's Hoops: Brooks Savage, Alex Wharton Promoted

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.---The Chattanooga Mocs men’s basketball program is promoting two staffers, pending University approval, coach Will Wade announced Tuesday. Brooks Savage and Alex Wharton are moving into new roles in the wake of assistant coach Turner Battle leaving to take a similar position at UAB. Savage takes Battle’s place as a full-time assistant after ... (click for more)