Although Chattanooga saw a record number of homicides for recent years in 2017, total shooting incidents, total people shot, shootings involving gang members and non-fatal shootings involving gang members all were down last year.
All but the first number are positive, should be celebrated and rightly might be attributed to a number of factors.
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said the numbers are down because "we've reduced those incidents" that might involve gangs. Chattanooga Police Department personnel point to investments in community building and in technology.
Together, they've resulted in more guns seized, more pertinent information from community members, more digital eyes on difficult areas and better cases being put together that result in more convictions.
But can it be a trend? That is the pertinent question.
Only four short years ago, Erlanger Health System Chief Executive Officer Kevin Spiegel told the Times Free Press his hospital was in dire straights. It had lost a combined $36 million from fiscal 2008 through fiscal 2013, had swallowed $14 million in state and federal insurance reimbursement cuts, was expecting to see its amount of uncompensated care rise to $92 million, and had frozen paid time off for 4,000 employees.
For years before that, the hospital had been on a roller-coaster — in the black, in the red, in the black, in the red
But by the end of 2014, Erlanger had turned itself around and has remained financially solid since.
That's the type of trend, where it concerns crime, we all want to see in Chattanooga.
While random, crime-of-passion homicides may occur where law enforcement has no reason to expect anything untoward, Berke and police should continue to concentrate where their efforts made a difference in 2017 in helping lower the shooting numbers and gang-related shooting numbers.
If those lower numbers continue in 2018 and 2019 and 2020, a corner likely will have been turned toward a new normal.
Berke, by completing a promise to go up to 500 sworn officers in the city, and police, by setting up a new gun unit, by focusing on location-based investigations and by broadening community engagement and training, would like to make it happen.
"You can't have everybody everywhere," said Sgt. Josh May, head of the police department's anti-gang violence efforts. "We don't have any crystal balls that say this guy is going to kill this person on this night."
Maybe not, but if the downward crime trends continue, officials will know they're on the right track.