Mayor Berke Holds Out Hope for VRI — Mayoral Opponents Claim its a Failure
Chattanooga mayor Andy Berke is running for a second term in 2017.
And he faces opposition from city council member Larry Grohn and former three-term council member David Crockett.
The Violence reduction initiative is one of the major issues facing the next mayor.
Mayor Andy Berke’s administration 4-years ago began and fully supported the city’s violence reduction program. It’s a plan based on other similar efforts around the country, but so far results locally have been mixed. The mayor believes the VRI continues to have promise.
MAYOR ANDY BERKE, CHATTANOOGA “We’ve seen large decrease in overall violent crime and in property crime. So we’re going to keep investing in more police officers and in the technology that will help them do their job.”
The mayor has said that gun violence is increasing all over the country. He says new equipment the city has purchased, especially in ballistics technology, has taken guns off the street and given police the edge.
MAYOR BERKE “I talk to mothers and fathers and family members who have suffered from the loss of a love one because of gun violence in our community—I know the toll that it takes on our city and we’re going to keep pushing uh top reduce gun violence since we’ve see the violent crime and property crimes decline ..we want that same kind of success in gun violence.”
Challenger Larry Grohn is District 4 city council member who disagrees. He’s challenged the 4 year old VRI program, saying that it’s failed to reduce crime–particularly gang violence. Unofficially in 2016, the number of shootings increased to 163, 10 more than 2015, and the number of deaths was 32.
LARRY GROHN, MAYORAL CANDIDATE “What we have seen since that time is not only no reduction in crime, uh, but we’ve seen an increase in crime. And we have seen our city get worse in terms of not only violent crime but also in terms of property crime.”
Grohn is calling for a vocational job training program to give young people what he calls a pathway to a better life.
LARRY GROHN “The mayor’s attention has been focused on a symptom of the violence in our city. And that symptom is gang violence. So He, I have said this is very similar to the mayor putting a band-aid on on gunshot wound.”
David Crockett was a three term city council member in the 1990’s. He indicated he would also get rid of the VRI.
DAVID CROCKETT ” For the VRI, uh, the police have done heroic job effort as has the community but it hasn’t worked—we’ll go a different direction.”
Crockett accuses the Berke administration of making law enforcement a social experiment that put the community at risk. He says it hasn’t solved the problem.
DAVID CROCKETT, MAYORAL CANDIDATE “I want to walk out the door like I do in my neighborhood . I have no fear of being shot or robbed. And I have no fear of walking day or night. I want that for every Chattanoogan and we will deliver that for every Chattanoogan.”
The Mayoral Election is March 7th.
Wednesday Night, the candidates will discuss a controversial proposal by Mayor Berke to contribute a million dollars toward construction of the new Children’s Hospital.
The 4th Candidate in the Mayor’s race is businessman Chris Long. His candidacy will be covered in a future story.