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, WINCHEL LEBRON  4525 PICKENPAUGH STREET CHATTANOOGA, 37416  Age at Arrest: 37 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County DOMESTIC ASSAULT --- AINSCOUGH, TINA MARIE  1830 MILLARD ROAD SODDY DAISY, 37379  Age at Arrest: 49 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County AGGRAVATED ... (click for more)

Upcoming City Council Agenda For Tuesday

Here is the upcoming City Council agenda for Tuesday: I. Call to Order. II. Pledge of Allegiance/Invocation (Vice-Chairman Freeman). III. Minute Approval. IV. Special Presentation. V. Ordinances – Final Reading: ECONOMIC AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT a. An ordinance amending Chattanooga City Code, Part II, Chapter 11, by the addition of a new Article ... (click for more)

Black History Month Hero - Theodore McGraw (Kidd) AKA "Pongee"

I grew up in "Old St. Elmo" on 39th Street behind the Incline. As a child I remember my older brother "Pongee" as being my hero. This month of February being Black History Month, I cannot think of a better person to be honored than my late older brother, Theodore McGraw (Kidd) aka "Pongee" of St. Elmo (Gamble Town). Growing up without my father, Theodore was always available ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: About Lions & Elephants

A family of lions is called a ‘pride’ and rightfully so. The boss of the pride is indeed the ‘King of the Jungle’ and he makes all the big decisions, like when they go hunting, who is going to be ‘boyfriend-girlfriend’ and is quick to settle any family quarrels. But, as with all in nature, there comes a day when the King gets too old to rule. His teeth are loose, his gait hampered ... (click for more)

Near-Perfect Red Bank Leads Region 2-A/AA Wrestling

High school wrestling coaches are always looking for perfection and Red Bank's Shane Turner almost got it Friday night in the opening day of the Region 2-A/AA tournament at Hixson Middle School. The Lions advanced all 14 of their wrestlers to Saturday morning's championship semifinal round and lead the 14-team field with 52 points. Hixson advanced 10 to the semis and hold ... (click for more)

Baylor Has Six, No.1 Seeds For D-II Region Wrestling Meet

Led by three-time state champions Michael Murphy (145) and Ryan Parker (195), Baylor has six No.1 seeds for today’s TSSAA D-II East/Middle Region individual wrestling tournament at Baylor. McCallie has four top seeds, while MBA has three and BGA has one. Today’s Region: The tournament starts at 10 a.m. in Duke Arena with the top four in each weight class advancing to next ... (click for more)