Hamilton County seeks federal, state help with crime

Hamilton County seeks federal, state help with crime

October 26th, 2011 by Ansley Haman in News

A member of the Chattanooga Crime Scenes Unit photographs evidence left at the scene of a homicide in this file photo.

POLL: Do you think Chattanooga has a crime problem?

Hamilton County commissioners decided Tuesday to seek state or federal help in stopping more shootings like the two this week in East Chattanooga.

Commissioner Warren Mackey, who recently held a standing-room-only community meeting to field concerns in District 4 about violence, took time in a Tuesday agenda session to ask for a solution.

"We're becoming one of the most dangerous cities in the United States of America," he said. "Some people say this is a city issue. The city of Chattanooga is located within Hamilton County, and we represent the city, as well."

The request comes just after the city had its 23rd homicide victim for the year.

A man clad in black opened fire with an assault rifle Sunday night as people sat outside homes in the 1900 block of Walker Street. Four people were wounded and one was killed. No arrests had been made as of Tuesday.

VanDaryl Rivers, 22, was shot in the head and was pronounced dead at Erlanger. Witnesses told police the shooter walked a block away before getting into what appeared to be a white vehicle.

To date, there have been 48 shootings with injuries this year in the city, including one Monday night in which 44-year-old Kenneth Eady was shot on Roanoke Avenue, allegedly following an argument with his stepson.

Commissioner Fred Skillern, who represents northwestern sections of the county, proposed that the body seek state or federal intervention in the form of a task force to address violent crime. Other commissioners agreed, deciding to draft a resolution to be voted on next Wednesday at its planned commission meeting.

"We need all the help we can get," Mackey said of the request for outside help.

Commissioner Joe Graham said Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond and Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd "have a better working relationship now" than in past administrations.

Before Skillern proposed the task force, commissioners discussed whether to increase the sheriff's budget or hold a hearing.

"We need to prioritize," Commissioner Greg Beck said. "If we can have a hearing on deer killings, why can't we have a hearing on people killings?"

Beck, who was vocal in 2010 about curbing violent crime after a high-profile shooting in Coolidge Park, suggested Tuesday that prayer and vigilance would help.

"You just get to this place where you wonder what in the world you can do," he said.

Mackey said those committing the crimes need something to fill their idle time -- and hope.

Staff writer Beth Burger contributed to this story.