A crime prevention expert helping Mayor Andy Berke carry out a local High Point Initiative said in an email to officials of the Chattanooga Times Free Press that interviewing and giving the full names of those cooperating in the effort is "extremely dangerous."
David M. Kennedy, an official of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control, said the newspaper's action "are undermining Chattanooga’s violence prevention efforts."
Times Fress Press officials, in the Sunday paper, defended their coverage, saying that the public had a right to know details of the crime fighting effort.
Here is the Kennedy email:
Dear Ms. Gerber and Mr. Taylor,
Over the last several days, in its coverage of the launch of Chattanooga’s Violence Reduction Initiative, the Chattanooga Times Free Press has – against our advice to the city, the city’s guidance to the media, standard national practice, and all common sense – sent two reporters and a photographer to the first group member call-in, stopped and attempted to interview those called in as they left the event, and most recently printed their full names. The paper’s actions are undermining Chattanooga’s violence prevention efforts and are in fact extremely dangerous.
· Those called in are on probation and parole and are required to attend as a condition of their court supervision. It is hugely inappropriate, and a violation of trust, to put them in a position where that exposes them to media. The press should no more be there than it should shoulder into a one-on-one office visit between a probationer and his probation officer.
· Supervisees who know they may end up on camera and named in the paper are less likely to attend future call-ins. They and their groups will not hear the warnings and offers of support the city is delivering and are more likely to be sanctioned for noncompliance. The Chattanooga Times Free Press is enhancing the chances that these individuals will be hurt and go to jail.
· Street offenders (and many others in their communities) tend to lump the outside world into one large “them.” It is beyond their comprehension that the city and the police cannot stop reporters from interrogating them, asking them their names or sticking a camera in their faces. The paper is undercutting the trust in the authorities the Violence Reduction Initiative is carefully designed to produce.
· Street offenders know only one situation in which their peers are brought into conversations with law enforcement and leave free men: when they snitch. Snitches get killed. The Chattanooga Times Free Press is putting the men who chose to attend the call-in at enormous personal risk.
I trust that these consequences were unintended, and that your organization will not produce them again going forward.
David M. Kennedy
Center for Crime Prevention and Control
John Jay College of Criminal Justice