published Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Committee set up to combat gangs in Chattanooga moving forward

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond speaks Tuesday to a board of local officials about what needs to be done to remedy Chattanooga's gang problem.
Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond speaks Tuesday to a board of local officials about what needs to be done to remedy Chattanooga's gang problem.
Photo by Dan Henry.
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    Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd speaks Tuesday to a board of officials about what needs to be done to remedy Chattanooga's gang problem.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
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Is Chattanooga's gang problem out of hand?
  • Yes. 94%
  • No. 6%

561 total votes.

  • photo
    Assistant District Attorney Boyd Patterson speaks to a board of officials about what needs to be done to remedy Chattanooga's gang problem early Tuesday morning at the County Courthouse off of Georgia Ave.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A steering committee set up to combat gangs in Chattanooga took steps Tuesday to discuss the Chattanooga area's growing issue.

Although the committee has met a handful of times since early March, officials are still in the early stages of implementing a federal plan issued by the Department of Juvenile Justice to combat gangs.

The plan, which links social services and local governments together rather than relying only on police officers, requires that a project director be hired to coordinate efforts.

At Tuesday's meeting, Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd was named chairman of a subcommittee, which also includes Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond and Hamilton County Assistant District Attorney Boyd Patterson. The subcommittee will interview candidates for a project director's position.

The committee plans to make more progress in light of the growing number of shootings and gang-related homicides.

To date, 15 out of the city's 23 homicides this year -- 65 percent -- are gang related, up from 30 percent in 2008.

Since officials began meeting in early March, there have been 19 homicides resulting from gun violence, two of which were domestic related, according to records.

"I don't know that anybody has the silver bullet. I think it's important we move it forward. Everything I've heard today, I've heard before several months ago," Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said Tuesday. "I think if we really need to address it -- I know everybody wants to address it. In order to move it forward, this position of director seems to be more important than I thought it was."

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said the person hired as director must be selected carefully and given the community's support.

"[The position is] going to have to involve a lot of other elements. ... They shouldn't be responsible for everyone performing," Littlefield said. "One thing I don't want to happen is you hire somebody; they are brought in like they are going to be the new savior; you give them all this responsibility; things don't happen right away and then we're sending them out of town as the scapegoat."

The director would be a city-created position funded by job vacancies, Littlefield said in a previous interview. When last asked about a job description, which is required in the plan, he said he wasn't sure if he had one in the file.

Dodd said initially the anti-gang effort will need strong crime suppression to deal with climbing numbers in gang membership.

"But going into this, we're going to have to realize that some kids, some teenagers, just need to go to jail," he said. "You can't save them."

As an example, he cited a midnight basketball program in which youth were allowed to play late at night and police officers were paid overtime. He said shootings continued during the program.

"These kids aren't same ones who are going, 'Should I go down shoot hoops, play volleyball or blow somebody's brains out?' That kid's not making that decision when he leaves the house. That kid's got his mind made up. It's been made up for years."

The committee did not schedule a new meeting but is expected to meet before the Thanksgiving holidays. Members plan to reach out to United Way, Erlanger hospital officials and the Hamilton County school district as well as members of the faith-based community.

When a plan is implemented, the one thing it will take is time, committee members said.

"This is something that every Chattanoogan is going to have to come to the reality that gangs are not going away," Patterson said. "We're going to be dealing with gangs the next five to 10 years. It's just what level are we dealing with them on."

Dodd estimated it will take more time than that.

"That's a little more optimistic than I would be. Everything we are doing today and going forward," Dodd said. "It may be for the kids sixth grade and down right now. It may not help anyone above that level."

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joetheplumber said...

Put Jim's daughter in charge, she'll take care of em.

November 2, 2011 at 12:42 a.m.
01centare said...

the anti-gang effort will need strong crime suppression

They still don't get it. The above solution is a major part of the problem. Here comes more abuse.

November 2, 2011 at 1:03 a.m.
holdout said...

You don't get it 01. What do you suggest? How much "please leave us alone" money do the law abiding hardworking people of all races and neighborhoods have to pay to the gangs to be left alone? Do we have to buy them all houses, cars, cellphones, cigarettes, beer, and food for the rest of their lives and provide free entertainment? Do we give them everything they want over and over and apologize when it isn't enough? Where is this money to come from? Catch a clue. everyone is sick of the animal like behavior. Everyone is sick of being targeted for no reason other than that they work and have something to steal. The money has been dumped into the bottomless pit of social programs by the truck load for decades and all we have is more violence. I don't care if some mean old Policeman stopped some "innocent" 15 year old for nothing more than walking the street at 3AM. That is no excuse to fire a rifle into a group of people on the street he doesn't even know. Even if they are wearing the wrong color shirt or live in the wrong neighborhood. You can keep making excuses all you want but you need to "get it". Not every young black male is a misunderstood victim of society fighting for respect. Some are just cold blooded killers with no respect for anyone or anything. The bullets they spray indiscriminately will kill you or your loved ones just as quickly and just as dead as the other victims left in their wake. And they will be just as unconcerned.

November 2, 2011 at 6:33 a.m.
Haiku said...

Zuerst kamen sie für die Kommunisten, und ich sprach nicht laut, weil ich nicht ein Kommunist war. Dann kamen sie für die Handelsunionisten, und mich didn'tspeak, weil ich nicht ein Handelsunionist war. Dann kamen sie für die Juden, und ich sprach nicht laut, weil ich nicht ein Jude war. Als sie für die Mexikaner kamen, sprach ich nicht laut, weil ich nicht ein Mexikaner Jetzt bin, kommen sie für den Neger, und ich spreche noch immer nicht laut, weil ich nicht ein Neger bin. An einem Punkt weiß ich, dass sie für mich kommen werden, und es wird geben keiner reiste ab, um in meinem Interesse laut zu sprechen. Was dann?

Plus, someone obviously failed kindergarten math. But high numbers impress. People will focus solely on that 65:

To date, 15 out of the city's 23 homicides this year -- 65 percent -- are gang related, up from 30 percent in 2008.

I also disagree that going in carrying out mass arrests is any solution. On the short end, it's entertaining for some of the closet bigots in the city to see mass arrets of blacks on the evening news, but in the long run it does more damage to these communities and the city. They're not going admit to the equally mass collateral damage that comes with these half-baked decisions.

November 2, 2011 at 9:17 a.m.
whatsnottaken said...

Seems like there's nothing to get 01centare, except shot while walking your dog in "beautiful" Chattanooga. What do y'all do down there for fun now except shoot, beat, rape and kill each other?

November 2, 2011 at 9:24 a.m.
holdout said...

Bingo and contract bridge.

November 2, 2011 at 9:56 a.m.
holdout said...

Who is speaking for the victims?

November 2, 2011 at 9:58 a.m.
eastridge8 said...

I still say the only thing a gangbanger fears is a gun to his head and being outnumbered. Overwhelm his territory with hundreds of police...ALL BRANCHES...and put a bullet in his head and they will run like rats...hopefully to another state...which is how they got here.


Harsh but necessary...if the parent(s) won't raise decent kids and make them stay in school and off drugs then they will end up in jail or dead.

Education complete.

November 2, 2011 at 11:05 a.m.

The way to fix it is to get rid of their lairs. All of the free housing supplied in the crime riddled neighborhoods. Tear down all the welfare housing and replace it with paid housing. End the entitlements and handouts and you will go a long way to getting rid of the gangs. The welfare state is setting the stage for the formation of these gangs. The breakdown of the family unit provides the recruits.

November 2, 2011 at 12:20 p.m.
jesse said...

if the local police put enough HEAT on the gangbangers city wide maybe they will all pack up and move to atlanta or SAND MTN.(survivors that is!)

November 2, 2011 at 2:36 p.m.
328Kwebsite said...

What do the people who live there think? I don't suspect anyone pictured or quoted actually lives in gang territory when they go home. I could be wrong, but I suspect that no one asked the people who actually know what's what.

We probably have some old ladies who sit on benches and front porches who know more about it than our uptown planners and real estate profiteers.

If we moved everyone out of neighborhoods where the income levels were below $10,000 per year, and put those families in neighborhoods where people expect their neighbors to earn over $50K a year, maybe we will have made a genuine effort at reform.

We will listen to wealthy people talk all day about how they want to make downtown a piazza for circulating all kinds of community members, yet we continue to ghettoize and warehouse the poor.

The poor, by the way, are our people. They are our citizens, our voters, and our own family members. Trying to perpetuate some kind of Oldthink about how the poor just haven't gotten the right kind of rationalism for their day planners isn't going to solve it or support humanity. Maybe some genuine leadership might.

That could start with electing and appointing local people to participate who give a damn. Instead, we get country clubbers and Old Chattanooga politicos sitting around in armchairs postulating about how gangs could affect real estate values.

The last time some multimillionaire moved from the suburbs into the middle of downtown, look what happened: they complained the poor made too much noise at the bar. No duh. Don't move in next to a bar. Our community's response? Tell the poor to shut up and go away.

If every fifth house in the suburbs held a low income family, which it may well soon anyway, then maybe there wouldn't be any point in ganging up for survival.

Trying to punish people or pay people won't do it. In order to integrate people into a society and community, you have to let them into the society and community. Instead, we've confined our poorest to public housing. How would any young man grow up but to expect harsh treatment from the world, and no real chances, under those circumstances?

We have had more than enough foreclosed homes in this county to relocate huge segments of the population. Instead, we pack them into neglected 1940s buildings and rented out skyscrapers.

We could do better.

If rich people had to live in the projects, you can bet it'd be a damn piazza. Instead of real urban planning and intelligent solutions like those which made our rich people richer, we'll see more posturing and ignoring that will make our poor people get poorer. Until some urban planner actually gives a damn, we won't see a real solution.

Since it's unlikely that the Metro Payoff Club will find a way to pay themselves by relocating the poorest of the poor, we don't stand much of a chance at improvement right now.

November 2, 2011 at 6:07 p.m.
328Kwebsite said...

I guarantee you I have seen enough vacant real estate in this city on any given day of the week to relocate over 50% of Chattanooga's poorest families to a brand new neighborhood or commercial space by the end of the week.

We would run out of moving vans and box cargo trucks to use per day long before we ran out of families in need of relocation or good quality space for sale or lease to send them to.

I know people howl at the mere thought of public school busing. I mean bus the entire neighborhood to a better place, a few families at a time, right now, with the resources at hand. Get people out of where they are ganged up and living now and move them in to a place with a fresh start.

It'd do for our low income families what White Flight did for the suburbs in the 60s and 70s. Except this time, if done well, it might be morally right.

Will it ever be done? I think not. No one will actually take a chance on our people.

We have more than enough existing resources on hand to solve this problem. Instead, we will get more ignorance and complaints and preaching about how someone needs a beating or exile.

Break up the housing projects and move them into vacant strip malls and unused office space scattered all over town. It's not that hard to convert from one kind of space to another, if you have the will. We would spend far more on changing one kind of commercial lease to another.

Create new neighborhoods all over again in a way that promotes freshness and having a chance. Not just some 1990s Gingrich-era refinancing: build new communities and actually include poor people.

We haven't seen that done yet as part of downtown's revitalization.

Instead, I am confident our wealthy will continue to hoard their resources, sell their real estate to no one, and wonder why the poor continue to fester in the cheapest lots of land as our gang problem gets worse.

We already have the answer right in front of us every day. Who has the guts to use it?

If you've got something better, let's hear it.

Every vacant office space for lease in this city is a step up from what we have on hand right now. Use it.

November 2, 2011 at 6:25 p.m.
328Kwebsite said...

Build new neighborhoods in existing commercial spaces that need revitalizing, and include poor people while doing it.

No one has actually tried that, in practice, anywhere in this city. We have especially seen our poorest excluded and marginalized from the nicest revitalizations downtown. Maybe it's time to stop that and start doing what was said and not done: build a whole new community in urban spaces, including all income levels and all cultures.

If you thought integrating the lunch counter was tough, wait until you try to integrate the vegan suburbanite princess grocery into serving chitterlings. That's what it'll take. Until that happens, we're just spinning around new versions of the same old Jim Crow solutions.

November 2, 2011 at 6:48 p.m.
Haiku said...

Wow! And WOW! again, 328Kwebsite!! You've summed the entire situation up. The truth is, these areas were targeted for gentrification decades ago. There was a need for something of the present tragic situations taking place in order to justify forcing the poor up and out in order to make way for those suburbanites to return to the city. There were never any plans to socially, economically and racially intergrate these areas in their truest and purest forms. This is the other hidden backdoor social, class, racial and economic bigotry taking place in Chattanooga and elsewhere. And of course, the intended victims aren't aware they've been purposely targeted.

November 2, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.
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