A resident of East Lake Courts, Tasha Rowe, said her children can't play on her porch without being reminded of the threat of violence that underpins certain neighborhoods in Chattanooga.
"We hear bullets," she told members of the Chattanooga City Council during their weekly meeting Tuesday. "We hear guns shooting, and it's so normal that when they hear it, they know to run in the house. They know what it is."
Accompanied by her children and wearing a shirt emblazoned with the face of her nephew — who she said was murdered in 2017 — Rowe was one of several mothers who spoke to city leaders Tuesday to call for action.
"When y'all go home, y'all sleep good," Rowe said. "When I sleep, I sleep nervously."
Fears about gun violence have boiled to the surface in recent weeks following two consecutive weekend shootings in Chattanooga, which have collectively left three people dead and 20 wounded.
On June 3, Mayor Tim Kelly announced he would release a three-part plan in the coming weeks to address gun violence in Chattanooga.
That involves investing in youth mentorship and social development programs, and extending hours and youth programming at local community centers. In a release, the mayor's office said it also planned to engage with community members to ensure their input is reflected in the plan.
Council members approved the city's fiscal year 2023 budget on final reading Tuesday. It includes funding for a new executive director of community safety and gun violence prevention. The salary for that position would be in the range of $74,551 and $111,827, according to an online job posting.
In a news release Tuesday, the mayor's office said the position was planned months ago to help shape and implement a plan to reduce violent crimes in the community.
Chattanooga also plans to continue funding for a number of programs that officials say help address the root causes of gun violence, including the city's Community Forward Schools initiative, the Empact program and support for the Construction Academy.
Another mother, Betty Battle, runs a nonprofit organization called Grieve, which takes its name from the grieving relatives in every violent event. She lost her son, Michael Maddox, in May 1993 after he was shot four times by a 16-year-old.
"We as grieving mothers will continue to occupy the front line and speak on behalf of our murdered loved ones," Battle told council members. "Gun violence disproportionately impacts communities of color that have suffered from the long-standing, race-based redlining and disinvestment.
"Community violence is a direct result of unmet social needs, and we need to address these needs. We need to continue to have an outcome."
A comprehensive community approach, she said, acknowledges that no single program is sufficient.
"There are many opportunities for effective programs within this community," she said. "We ask that you will stand with us and implement these programs."
Just before 11 p.m. on May 28, gunfire erupted near 100 Cherry St. and 100 Walnut St. between two groups of young people, injuring six teenagers.
Police have since arrested a 16-year-old and a 15-year-old in connection with the case. Their names have not been released because they are minors.
Shortly after 2:30 a.m. June 5, police believe multiple shooters opened fire on McCallie Avenue in front of Mary's Bar & Grill. In addition to the gunfire, several people were injured by a vehicle while people were fleeing the scene.
In all, three people were killed: Darian Hixson, 24, Myrakle Moss, 25, and Kevin Brown, 34. Another 14 people were injured.
Authorities have since arrested three men in connection with that shooting.
Garrian King, 28, was arrested June 9 and charged with possessing a firearm as a felon. Alexis Lewis, 36, was arrested Monday and charged with criminal homicide, reckless endangerment and possession of a firearm during the commission or attempt to commit a dangerous felony. Rodney Harris was charged Tuesday with possession of a firearm as a felon.
Contact David Floyd at email@example.com or at 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @flavid_doyd.