A Thursday night shooting ended a two-week stretch of no gun violence in Chattanooga and interrupted a rare calm ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, a traditionally violent week in the city.
Geonta Gaines, 21, was shot in the back early in the evening while getting into a vehicle at the Pinewood Apartments in Chattanooga.
Before that, the city had gone 15 days without a single shooting. The only other time the city has gone as long without a shooting this year was in July, when a hiatus stretched for 23 days.
Despite the recent lull, more people have been shot so far in 2016 than at this point in 2015. There have been 119 shootings this year, compared to 103 at this point in 2015, according to Times Free Press records.
Much of that year-over-year increase was driven by a surge of gang-related gun violence in April, police Chief Fred Fletcher said. The city saw 19 shootings that month, more than twice as many as the seven recorded in April 2015, according to Times Free Press records.
"April destroyed us," Fletcher said.
But in the six months since, the city has seen a 4 percent decrease in criminal shootings compared to the same period in 2015, he said. Police recorded 69 such shootings in 2015, compared to 66 this year. That count doesn't include accidental, justified or self-inflicted shootings.
Overall violent crime in the city — rape, murder, aggravated assault and aggravated robbery — was down by 10 percent during the first nine months of the year compared to the same period in 2015, according to police.
Homicides alone are up, with 31 so far this year compared to 30 in all of 2015.
Fletcher attributed the decline in shootings to a handful of new strategies, including beefing up the department's crime analysis unit and beginning a new court program for juvenile offenders.
Police also have used data to track the typically most violent weeks in the city, and officers focus their efforts on preventing or hindering that anticipated violence, Fletcher said.
"We've found street and gang violence tends to cluster," he said. "So there's a Facebook beef, a shooting and retaliation and it spins up quickly and densely. [Our analysts] went back over the last three or four years and found that not only do [shootings] cluster, they tend to cluster around the same time periods and around significant events."
Analysts found that seven short periods — about 14 percent of the calendar year all told — accounted for 39 percent of the city's shootings, he said.
Now, when such a 'most violent week' approaches, the department takes some sort of action (exactly what varies each time) to try to stymie the anticipated violence.
In one such "surge response," police and other law enforcement partners served 175 warrants over two days. In another, law enforcement picked out the people most likely to cause violence and "tried to take them off the streets," Fletcher said.
Gang violence decreased after each response, he said, except one, in early October. During the nine days surrounding the Hamilton County school system's fall break, 11 people were shot and one man was killed.
"We knew based on our data that early October was likely to be a violent period," Fletcher said. "We did a surge response and all it did was hold it even. That was our first one that did not have demonstrable success. So we're at four out of five."
The six days leading up to Thanksgiving are the next time police expect to see an uptick in violence, Sgt. Josh May said. That was an especially violent period last year: Eight people were shot and two others killed in eight days around the holiday.
Police will again focus their efforts on slowing or stopping any Thanksgiving week violence this year, Fletcher said. He added he's proud of the police department's innovation but still not satisfied with the pace of violence.
"What's exciting is that we're trying all these new things, evolving them and adding them to our tool belt," he said, then added, "I'm reluctant to see six months of moderate improvement and say we've figured things out, because we have a long way to go and there is way too much violence."
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