Mayoral candidate Larry Grohn on Tuesday called for "immediate reforms to Andy Berke’s crime plan -- otherwise known as the Violence Reduction Initiative."
He said the call "comes from a new series of findings released by the Grohn for Mayor campaign - among which is a startling fact - since the start of the Berke crime plan in 2014 and as of September 2016, the average number of shootings per month has increased by 55 percent."
City Councilman Grohn said he made his decision to run for mayor "after a year that has seen the worst season of violence in recent memory and disturbing trends showing that Berke’s crime plan is doing more harm than good."
“The facts are in -- Andy Berke’s crime plan is actually making crime worse in Chattanooga.” said Councilman Grohn.
He said his campaign "has calculated the dramatic increase in shootings since the start of Berke’s term in office using data made publicly available via the Chattanooga Open Data Portal. The Larry Grohn campaign welcomes the public to review the findings themselves by using the Open Data portal."
Police officials responded:
"While violence in our city, and cities across the country, is too high, we continue to take steps to address it here in Chattanooga. The Chattanooga Police Department works every day, through a variety of initiatives, to keep crime down including budgeting for more officers than ever before, hiring a federal prosecutor to focus on crimes committed within the city limits, establishing a Victim’s Services Unit, and ensuring Community Policing and Focused Deterrence strategies department-wide. Because of these initiatives, and many more, we have seen results. As Chief Fletcher will discuss with City Council tonight, overall violent crime is down 10.4 percent this year compared to last year. Property crime is down 9.6 percent compared to 2015. This equates to 833 fewer Chattanooga residents who experienced crime so far this year. We are seeing these results because of a robust and comprehensive plan, led by Chief Fletcher, that uses every public safety policy, resource, partner, and strategy available to us -- including but not limited to the Violence Reduction Initiative which is just one tool for a very specific type of violence.
"That said, the Chattanooga Police Department must address a number of inaccuracies and misconceptions in Councilman Grohn’s press release.
"While there has been an increase in murders and criminal shootings from 2014 through September of 2016, it is not at the rate in which Councilman Grohn states. The average number of murders and criminal shootings was 9.5 per month in 2014, 10.5 per month in 2015, and 11.1 per month this year, through September of 2016. That is a 17 percent increase, not a 55 percent increase. It should also be noted that there has been a substantial increase in the number of guns in the hands of criminals. In fact, our officers are on track to recover over 40 percent more illegal firearms this year than last.
"As for Councilman Grohn’s proposed action plan, the Chattanooga Police Department (CPD) would respectfully point out that day to day public safety decisions are made by Chief Fletcher and the Chattanooga Police Department’s leadership team, not the Mayor’s office. This includes which strategies are most effective, decisions on what contracts to enter into for which public safety services, and responsibility for internal chain of command decisions, including how to best maximize officer’s time and talent. The leadership team at CPD works hard to create a culture where ideas and opinions from officers are valued and acted upon. In fact, many of the department’s innovative new strategies come directly from officers, including the CPRVV initiative, SHOCAP, and identifying the most violent weeks of the year to create a crime fighting strategy around those times and areas. In addition, Chief Fletcher briefs the council and public regularly on public safety numbers, and he and his officers work hand in hand with the already established Citizen Safety Coalition, led by Bishop Adams of Olivet Baptist Church and Dr. Charles Mitchell.
"Last, CPD has a number of public safety partners. We work with the District Attorney’s Office and TBI in a close capacity on a variety of public safety matters, including the Violence Reduction Initiative, and have strong partnerships with ATF, FBI, Family Justice Center, Chattanooga Housing Authority, and more."
Among the key findings of the Grohn campaign are:
- The average number of shootings per month in 2014 was eight (rounded up from 7.9), in 2015 it was 11.5, and by the end of September 2016 the average number of shootings per month was 12.4.
- Since Andy Berke took office 401 people have been shot and 89 people have died as a result of homicides. This is current as of Sept. 30, 2016.
- Since the start of the Berke crime plan in 2014, there have been 20 months with 10 or more shootings a month. This represents nearly half of the time Andy Berke has been in office.
- Since the start of Berke’s crime plan in 2014, overall shootings have dramatically increased. By the end of 2015 shootings had gone up 45 percent compared with the previous year. By the end of January - September 2016, shootings had gone up 45 percent compared with the total of shootings from January-September 2014.
- This year alone has seen one of worst seasons of violence in recent memory. A four-month period from March to June 2016 saw a total of 59 shootings and 14 homicides for an average of 14.75 shootings and 3.5 homicides a month.
- “We cannot afford another year like the one we’ve had in Chattanooga,” said Grohn. “Andy Berke’s incompetence and failed strategies are endangering our families’ lives and the violence is spreading. We need a leader that knows keeping our families safe should be the Mayor’s number one job. As Mayor, I will fight to bring much needed reform to our public safety efforts so that we can restore peace and safety to Chattanooga’s neighborhoods.”
As Mayor, Larry Grohn will institute an action plan from the moment he takes office that will dramatically decrease violence in Chattanooga by implementing the following points:
- Convene an emergency Community Peace Summit and hear from Chattanoogans themselves on how to solve the crisis of violence. Unlike Andy Berke, Mayor Larry Grohn is not going to make a show of soliciting community support - we will take your ideas seriously. We know that the answers rest in the wisdom of Chattanooga’s everyday people. We will take your ideas and use them to inform our new Public Safety Strategy. Our conference will include community leaders, faith leaders, police officers, and former offenders.
- Immediately suspend all payments and contracts with David Kennedy’s National Network for Safe Communities. We cannot afford to give Andy Berke’s failed ideas one more day’s chance. While Andy pleads with a fed-up public for more time for his crime plan to work, the public has already made its judgment -- he has failed. On day one, Mayor Larry Grohn will immediately suspend all payments and contracts with David Kennedy’s National Network for Safe Communities and will re-evaluate all current contacts with VRI service providers.
- Institute a new Monthly Crime Progress Report where the Mayor reports to the public on the progress of public safety efforts. You shouldn’t have to dig through a confusing website to find the truth about Chattanooga’s efforts towards violence reduction. Citizens and taxpayers deserve straight talk with Mayor Larry Grohn you’ll get it. Unlike Andy Berke, Larry Grohn believes that you, the citizens and taxpayers, are the final authority towards our public safety efforts.
- Implement strategic and tactical suggestions as delivered by Chattanooga Police Department officers at all ranks - especially members of the Crime Suppression Unit. Andy Berke has disregarded the experience of the people who know the reality of violence in Chattanooga the best - our police officers. Mayor Larry Grohn will immediately implement a new policy that allows for police officers to anonymously report their crime-fighting strategies and insight up the chain of command and all the way to the Mayor’s Office. Larry Grohn believes that our police officers are invaluable experts and must be listened to.
- Re-establish strong partnerships with the Hamilton County District Attorney and other partners such as the TBI - relationships that have been frayed by Andy Berke’s incompetent leadership. There has never been a more disgraceful moment during Andy Berke’s failed term in office than when he attempted to blame his own failed VRI on the District Attorney Neal Pinkston. Larry Grohn understands that we need leaders who are willing to accept responsibility for their actions and who can get along with needed allies and partners. Larry believes that it takes mature and responsible leadership to get past those differences for the sake of our families’ safety.
Councilman Grohn said he believes that "strong families, partnerships with the faith community, and thriving neighborhoods are the answer to the crisis of violence in our city.
“I believe the answer to our crisis is found in the best that Chattanooga has to offer. The answer to this crisis is in our families, in our places of worship, in our friendships with our neighbors. Chattanooga deserves a mayor who will work to restore public safety and peace in our city.
Citizen Safety Coalition, co-chairman Bishop Adams released the following statement in response to Councilman Grohn’s press release calling for an “emergency Community Peace Summit and hear from Chattanoogans themselves on how to solve the crisis of violence”:
“Mayor Berke launched the Citizen Safety Coalition months ago to give the public a way to shape and contribute to efforts aimed at strengthening safety in our community. Over 180 people have signed up to be a part of the Coalition, which is led by Brainerd High School Vice Principal Dr. Charles Mitchell and myself.
"Because the Mayor enlisted us, several new ideas and initiatives have been launched and already are having an impact.
"In fact early on I met with a group of mothers who had lost their children to gun violence to hear their ideas to help those willing to be witnesses and testify. Out of those conversations we proposed the creation of the Witness Support Fund to give law enforcement more tools to help those stepping up to violence - and it’s already helped.
"I went back to that group of mothers to share with them the progress and one said, “you all really heard us.” To me, that’s what the Citizen Safety Coalition and God has blessed us to do -- it’s offered a way for community members to come together to be a part of solutions instead of criticism and blame. It’s easy to say something doesn’t work. It’s harder to take on tough challenges and work toward solutions.
"In addition to the Witness Support Fund, some of the other initiatives that have been brought forth by citizens in the Coalition include Breakfast with Badges, to help law enforcement and youth build relationships before a crisis and to show the support law enforcement can offer. Also safety planning for witnesses to encourage more accountability from the community, at-risk Mentorship initiative with targeted schools, which have already seen powerful results and finally more people doing the community outreach to group members reminding them that the community is here to help them if they choose support; and that they’ll be held accountable if they don’t.
"Just this past weekend, the Coalition held a Summit which was attended by over 70 community members, officers, faith leaders, and families. Unfortunately, Councilman Grohn did not attend.”