Public Safety Coordinator Paul Smith Says 1st "Call-In" Showed Promise In Halting Violence

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - by Hollie Webb

Public Safety Coordinator Paul Smith spoke about the Violence Reduction Initiative to the Chattanooga Kiwanis Club, saying during the first "call in" of 13 young Chattanooga men with violent records, a mother of a shooting victim pleaded with them to stop the violence.

The men were called in as a part of Mayor Andy Berke's initiative to greatly reduce violent crime.  They were asked to listen to police and community leaders speak.

These particular young men were selected after studying two years of data; it was discovered that the same names were connected to much of the crime and that only a few people were actually driving the violence. 

Mr. Smith, a former principal of Howard High School, said at first some of the men thought it was a trick.

However, he said, "At the call in, the message that the young men heard was simply 'Stop the shooting.'" 

He continued, "They heard from Brenda Johnson, a lady who had lost her child to this violence...She said, 'I don't know who killed my son, it could have been one of you, but I forgive whoever killed my son. Just don't let another mother go through this.'"

Mr. Smith said the room became "so quiet you could hear a pin drop." 

He said the men were also shown a power point regarding the police investigation of the shooting death of another young man, Deontrey Southers. He was only 13 years old when he was killed by members of a gang shooting into his home with AK-47s. Mr. Smith said the gang members had intended to shoot his mother's boyfriend.

Police showed these young men that because of the data collected for the VRI, every member of the gang involved had been arrested. Mr. Smith said, "We took all of them off the street, all will be serving federal time." 

Mr. Smith said, "We told them, 'We want to help you. We want you to stay safe, alive, and out of prison, but you have to stop the shooting.'" He said these men would be offered help in getting GEDs and job training.

At the end of the presentations, Mr. Smith said he had never seen anything like what happened next. He said, "All 13 men stayed to talk with the mayor and community folks." 

He said, "Guys were saying one after the other, 'I didn't know the community even cared about me.'"

He also said all of the 13 had done "their best to walk away from what they were doing." 

Founder and CEO of A Better Tomorrow, Inc. Richard Bennett also spoke, saying his organization was an outreach program for at-risk youth.

Mr. Bennett said, "Long after any administration leaves Chattanooga, A Better Tomorrow will still be here." 

He said out of the 312 children and juveniles mentored through his program who were already repeat offenders, none of them went back through the system.

Mr. Bennett described his past as a former gang member himself, saying it was only starting a relationship with God that allowed him to change. 

He said, "I don't mind giving my testimony because the pain of that testimony makes you who you are today."

He also pointed out that people are often scared of those different than them. He said, "We have people fearful of things they don't know...We're afraid of the perception of those people. But once you meet some of those people, you'll meet some awesome people." 

He said many people saw clothing or hairstyles such as dreads and were immediately nervous, but that talking to people with "a different perception" could "change your life."

He said, "I'm looking for you all to hear us and get involved in any capacity God tells you to do."


15,286 Have Voted Early In Hamilton County

There have been 15,286 to vote early in Hamilton County, including 3,845 who asked for Democratic  ballots and 11,265 who asked for Republican ballots. Here are the totals for Wednesday: ABSENTEE/BY MAIL Ballot Type - D 88 Ballot Type - G 71 Ballot Type - R 221 Location Totals 380 BRAINERD REC CTR Ballot Type - D 1,604 Ballot Type - G 2 Ballot Type ... (click for more)

Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report - And Mug Shots

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: APPLEBERRY, GERALD DELANE     2460 NORTHBRIAR CIR CHATTANOOGA, 37406     44     Hamilton County          AGGRAVATED ASSAULT ARCHEY, JACOB DILLON     2060 PARIS METZ ROAD CHATTANOOGA, 37421     21    ... (click for more)

Curtis Adams: Beck, Mackey Should Be Considered For County Commission Leadership

Just think about this;  a person highly qualified applying for a job.  As he is just about finished filling out his papers for his interview, he sees at the bottom there is a place for him to check Democrat or Republican.  He would think, “if I mark the wrong one I may not get the job.” Being a real leader requires honesty, integrity, and, most importantly, fairness. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Mark’s 50th Anniversary Toast

In the new book that celebrates the first 50 years of baseball’s Southern League, its splendid author Mark McCarter recalls that very early in his career as a sports writer, he was riding with his boss somewhere and mentioned that if the legendary Allan Morris ever needed help covering the Chattanooga Lookouts that he’d love to help. Today, as he looks back, he ruefully adds, “I ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Football Club National Championship Match Can Be Viewed Via EPB Fiber Optics

EPB Fiber Optics is offering the community exclusive live broadcast coverage of the Chattanooga Football Club in its final battle for the National Premier Soccer League National Championship. The game between the Chattanooga FC and the New York Red Bulls-Under 23 squad is scheduled for Saturday at 9:30 p.m. from the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. Fi TV Bronze, Silver ... (click for more)

McCallie's Bubba Simmons Steps Down as A.D.

C.R. “Bubba” Simmons  has announced plans to step down from his position as Athletic Director at McCallie School and accept the position of principal at Gordon Lee High School. Mr. Simmons took the helm of the school’s athletic department in 2008. Over the course of his career, which includes two previous stints, Mr. Simmons has served McCallie for almost 20 years. ... (click for more)