Wholesome neighborhoods, low crime area, small town atmosphere, everyone knows each other by their first name, family friendly. When my husband and I were shopping for our first house in prepartion for our expanding family, those were the phrases that our then realtor used to describe Red Bank.
I had grown up in Chattanooga, though I wasn't all that familiar with the Red Bank area, and my husband wasn't from here. It sounded good to us, and as we were getting closer and closer to the arrival of our firstborn, our quaint little house in Red Bank seemed like the answer to our prayers.
We happily moved in the late summer of 1997, and by late fall of that year, our baby girl had arrived. And for many years, our family existence was exactly as we hoped. Very little to no crime, kids happily playing in the yards. When you walked down the street, your neighbors were friendly and waved.
Sadly here we are, almost 16 years later, and it has totally changed. I wouldn't use the phrases our then realtor used to describe Red Bank, at least not anymore. I would use words like drugs, increasing crime rate, and not near as family friendly as it once was. Just in the last two weeks, a Red Bank High School student was shot in a drive by shooting, and a man with explosives in his house surrendered to Red Bank SWAT after an hours-long standoff. All of this nonsense happened less than a mile from my house... and yet we supposedly live in the "good part" of Red Bank... meaning the lower crime area. Within the last couple of years, there have been countless stories of theft (which we have been victims of), car breaks ins, drug houses, and now we can add drive by shootings and houses full of explosives to the list.
I must ask the question... what in God's name is going on in Red Bank? To be clear before people start debating and pointing fingers, no, I'm not blaming the Red Bank Police Department. I want to know where all these drugs are coming from? I want to know why there are children, ranging from the ages of approximately 11 years old to 17 years old wandering all over Red Bank at all hours of the day and night? Why are these kids not in school or at home? I believe the simplest answer to some of these questions, but perhaps not all, is drugs.
People say well, that's just what happens... the more an area grows, the more the crime rates grow. That might be true in the case of Chattanooga... it's still the "small town between Nashville and Atlanta", but it has greatly grown up since the days of my childhood. The same can't be said of Red Bank. Red Bank is hardly growing at all... so if it's hardly growing at all, why is crime growing here? More importantly, what can be done about it?
I look to the actions of Veronica Guerin for answers. She was an Irish crime reporter who was murdered in 1996 by Irish drug lords. Her death prompted the Irish government and the people of Ireland to wage a serious war on drugs. The Irish goverment formed the Criminal Assets Bureau, which is able to freeze assets of suspect drug dealers and kingpins. The citizens of Ireland took to the streets, running the drug dealers, kingpins, and other criminals out of their crime-infested neighborhoods. A year after her murder helped galvanize the people of Ireland, and the Irish government into action, crime rates in Ireland had dropped 15 percent.
Red Bank is in trouble, ladies and gentlemen. Between the drugs and the crime, we are slowly losing our town, our safety, and our children are slowly losing their futures. We need to take our town back. We need to make it safe and promising once again. How do we do that? The best, and strongest way is to make sure kids are exactly where they need to be.... in school. Give a kid some hope, and an education, you'll be surprised how strong that can make them. Keep an eye open in your neighborhoods. If you suspect something is wrong, don't just sit there hoping it will go away, report it. Get to know your neighbors. Keep an eye on your kids. If we come together, we can help make Red Bank the wholesome, family friendly, safe place it once was.