Chattanooga moving fast on gangs, expert says

Chattanooga moving fast on gangs, expert says

February 29th, 2012 by Beth Burger in News

WHAT'S A GANG MEMBER?

Someone who meets two or more of the following:

Admits to gang involvement

Identified by a parent or guardian as a gang member

Identified by a reliable informant

Frequents a gang's area and associates with gang members

Identified by an informant who has a record of reliability, however, the informant's information must be corroborated by independent information.

Arrested more than once with other identified gang members

Identified by physical

Source: Tennessee state law

Compared with other cities that have implemented a national anti-gang plan, Chattanooga is moving faster, according to a gang expert.

"It is much quicker. These time frames are typically what the gang centers see six to 12 months. You're on a very fast time frame except establish[ing] gang definitions," said Kimberly Porter, a research associate with Tallahassee, Fla.-based National Gang Center.

Porter spoke Tuesday a meeting in Chattanooga City Hall where a group of nearly 20 people from law enforcement, county and city officials as well as non-profit directors gathered to meet on the city's gang issue.

Most cities take six to 12 months to begin implementing the model known as the Comprehensive Gang Model, which is endorsed by the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, she said.

But in less than a year in Chattanooga, project coordinators were hired and a research company was secured to complete a citywide gang assessment.

About a year ago, the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office began meeting with Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield and heads of loc al law enforcement to explore options on how to tackle what has been called an "emerging" gang problem throughout the city. The Comprehensive Gang Model was adopted in the spring and by the fall, city leaders were looking for coordinators to get the plan moving.

After a gang-related Christmas Day shooting that left as many as 10 wounded in two incidents, the process was accelerated.

Boyd Patterson, a former Hamilton County district attorney, and Fred Houser, a former case manager counselor and counselor at the Davidson County Juvenile Detention Center, were hired early this year to coordinate efforts throughout the community.

Now the group routinely meets. As a part of the model, an assessment will be conducted to learn what gaps in services are present between nonprofits and also determine the needs of neighborhoods with high crime.

Gang definitions must be created that extend beyond what is listed in state law, according to the model.

POLL: Is the city moving fast enough to battle gangs?

"You want to look at defining gangs a little bit differently because you're not trying to prosecute people. You're trying to figure out what the gang problem actually is in Chattanooga," Porter said.

Kenneth Chilton, executive director of the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies, which is conducting the gang assessment, said he hopes to add other data if time allows. He also wants to track unemployment in neighbors and see how many grocery stores, banks and liquor stores are present in those areas.

When it comes to liquor stores, for instance, "there are studies that show that neighborhoods that are over-serviced in that regard are associated with higher levels of crime," he said.

Michael Cranford, president of Boys & Girls Club of Chattanooga, issued a plea for organizations to work together.

"We have got to find a way to work in this process that we're not driven by the funds we're going to get, what's going to happen in that effect."

People must ask themselves: "'Can I be a part of sharing whatever resources I have whether its people or whether that finances for this process to be successful?' he said. "Because that's what it's going to take for the community to come together.

"I don't know if people are willing. That's why I put it out on the table. I hope that they are willing to do that."