The initiative to reduce violence in Chattanooga

Reported by: Erik Avanier
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Updated: 12/11/2013 6:37 pm
CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee(WDEF) - Curbing violence in Chattanooga is a tall task but city and community leaders believe it can be done through the Violence Reduction Initiative.

The VRI is a targeted strategy to decrease violence by using principles of the National Network of Safe Communities. Those policies have been used in major cities with high violent crime rates.

The principles include a narrow focus on a specific crime such as homicide, gun violence, drug markets and domestic violence.

There's also a narrow focus on the small number of offenders who are causing the most problems.

"When you have shooters, there's not 90 people out there making this happen. They're about 15 or 20 that drive the problem," said Chattanooga Public Safety Coordinator Dr. Paul Smith.

Since joining the Berke Administration, Dr. Smith has been hitting the streets and directly communicating with offenders and even offering outreach and support for people who are looking to leave the gang life.

"Most gangsters don't want to be gangsters and almost all the ones I've talked to don't want their kids to follow in their footsteps," Dr. Smith said.

"The principles that are underlined in this have been tried in numerous other cities and they've been successful. A really sustained focus," said Mayor Andy Berke.

Fortunately, the mayor has statistics from the National Network of Safe Communities to back up that claim.

In boston, there was a 63% decrease in youth homicide. In Stockton California, gun homicide was reduced by 42%. In Cincinnati, there was a 41% reduction in gang homicides and in Chicago, homicides have decreased by 37%.

Chattanooga police are now working with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York by providing analyst with statistical information that will someday be added to the list of crime statistics in other cities.

"I have to give them an update on any group involved violence that has occurred within the past week and how many different shootings we've had if there were groups involved," said Chattanooga Police Lt. Todd Royval.

David Kennedy, the director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College analyzes that data. He says many of the violent criminals are living on borrow time.

"You are literally safer serving in the military in a live theater in Afghanistan than you are being one of these guys in an American city," Kennedy said.

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