Chattanooga's gang task force ending

Chattanooga's gang task force ending

April 6th, 2013 by Beth Burger in Local Regional News

Boyd Patterson, coordinator of the City of Chattanooga Gang Task Force, answers questions regarding the center's comprehensive gang report.

Photo by Jake Daniels /Times Free Press.

Chattanooga's gang task force will be dismantled when Mayor-elect Andy Berke takes office, task force coordinator Boyd Patterson said Friday.

Patterson said he was notified Friday afternoon by Berke's chief of staff-to-be, Travis McDonough.

"He was very polite. He thanked Fred [Houser, the task force outreach coordinator] and me for our service but advised us the new administration was going in a different direction," Patterson said.

He and Houser were asked along with other department heads to submit resignation letters as of Friday, but both had hoped to stay on after Berke takes office April 15.

Berke had hinted in the months running up to the March 5 election that he might take a new tack in the battle against crime. He chose his words carefully when asked about his views on the task force and anti-gang strategies.

"We're getting pretty hung up on this 'gang' word," he said at one event during the campaign.

In a recent interview, he said, "I appreciate the focus that we've had on gang violence in our city. My focus is going to be broader."

Lacie Stone, spokeswoman for Berke's transition team, said a public forum on public safety held two weeks ago helped form the new mayor's strategy to address crime.

"This comprehensive plan will include a public safety coordinator, responsible for helping implement Mayor-elect Berke's vision for the reduction of crime in Chattanooga," she said in a statement Friday night. "While the plan will address gang-related issues, and particularly gang violence, it will not include the gang task force. The Mayor-elect appreciates Boyd Patterson and Fred Houser for their passion, hard work, and dedication to our city."

Berke has talked of starting new anti-crime programs in Chattanooga, including ones targeting gang members and interrupting street-level drug deals.

In a previous interview he said he would unveil a strategic crime plan soon.

Patterson said he will be kept on until June 3 to usher pending legislation through and to wrap up a few initiatives, such as a mentoring drive and other education-based initiatives.

"The gang issue is not going away, and we're all in this together as a city," he said.

The city had approved $500,000 for the task force's first year, dubbed "The Future is Ours."

The goal was to roll out a national plan, the Comprehensive Gang Program, through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, to curtail gang membership and offer current members a way out.

Patterson said it's unclear what his plans are after his last day.

"I plan to stay in the criminal justice field," he said.

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at