published Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Teach children to live, not shoot

We have to out-gang the gangs and out-influence the bad role models children see in some of Chattanooga's inner-city neighborhoods.

That's the message from a geographic analysis of juvenile crimes and perpetrators in Chattanooga where half of all crimes committed by children under 18 were found in just five areas of the city: Brainerd, East Brainerd, East Chattanooga, downtown and an inner-city zip code that includes Highland Park, East Lake, Oak Grove, Orchard Knob and Ridgedale.

That last area -- Highland Park, East Lake, Oak Grove, Orchard Knob and Ridgedale -- is zip code 37404.

It is home to 4 percent of Hamilton County's juvenile population, but 23 percent of the juvenile crime incidents, according to data obtained from Hamilton County Juvenile Court.

Times Free Press reporter Todd South analyzed both the crimes and the home neighborhoods of the known perpetrators. Then he mapped both. What he found was that overall crime -- 990 instances -- is down generally from previous years, but both violent robberies and serious juvenile crime is up significantly.

Aggravated robbery, in which a juvenile must face and bully a victim, is up by 50 percent. And theft under $500 (not burglary) was up by 260 percent.

"Crime reports and numbers are up [in zip code 37404], but it's an illusion. It's not growing. It's just the same kids," said Chattanooga police Lt. Glenn Scruggs. "We're pretty much seeing the exact same kids over and over again starting at 11, 12 until they age out at 17."

He means age out of the juvenile court system -- not out of crime.

And that's what this analysis, as illuminating as it is, doesn't show: That this crime by those under 18 years old, coupled with those young men and women who have "aged out" and are now 18 to 28, has exploded into violence across the city.

Chattanooga was rocked by 71 shootings with 86 victims in the first half of 2013, compared to 51 shootings and 59 victims for the same period in 2012.

What Chattanooga officials have to figure out is how the city can reverse the growth of youth and gang crime in the heart of Chattanooga.

These 11- and 12-year-olds don't wake up one morning as criminals. They are influenced by older children and young adults who have already decided that stealing and bullying is a normal way of life.

The same 37404 zip code that garnered most of the juvenile crime last year, also claims a lion's share of the adult crimes -- including shootings.

Chattanooga's Mayor Andy Berke, knows the challenge, as does his newly appointed public safety coordinator Paul Smith, the former principal of Howard School.

Near the school, he said, he saw children as young as 7 or 8 emulating the older boys and girls in street gangs.

"We need to find ways to engage even those age kids," Smith said.

Wednesday marked Berke's 100th day in the mayor's office. Fixing the city's youth crime -- especially slowing the shootings by 2014 -- is a primary Berke pledge and objective.

He created a youth and family development department and expanded a literacy program in recreation centers. He has adopted the High Point initiative that he says in 2014 will help eliminate gang violence by focusing on major drug dealers, cease-fire negotiations and domestic violence programs.

But probably the real measure of his plan -- and any fixes that will be possible for 2014 and for the rest of his term and Chattanooga's future -- will be unveiled in the budget he will present next week and in efforts that include the Hamilton County school system.

Shaping what the youngest people in these besieged neighborhoods value can help change where they are headed. Will they be the newest generation of gang members and shooters? Or will they be tomorrow's teachers, doctors, lawyers and business entrepreneurs?

Shaping children's lives with positive programs sounds easy. It won't be. But it has to happen. And soon.

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LaughingBoy said...

Not one mention of parents in this piece.

July 25, 2013 at 9:47 a.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

The writer is could not recognize a root cause it if stepped up and slapped her in the face. It is moral decay, facilitated by the destruction of the family that is making all of the violence possible.

Besides, how can you live if you don't know how to shoot? Non-shooters don't know what they are missing!

July 25, 2013 at 1:22 p.m.
LaughingBoy said...

Good luck on getting a response.

July 25, 2013 at 3:25 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Of course good homes and loving parents are a good thing, an integral part of raising an all-around well adjusted and healthy kid. Who is going to deny that?! But you people who keep preaching a return to "family values," as if posting the Ten Commandments in school halls and court houses is going to magically take us back to the good ol' days of Ozzie and Harriet, are making fools of yourselves in your simplistic, naïve, and impractical assumptions. You continually fail to see life in the ghettoes, projects, and slums of America as it really is and thus you don't even know how to go about doing something to address the problems realistically, from the ground up. Rather you keep on with your preachments of marriage, church, the Bible, get a good job, abstain from sex, blah blah blah, without offering so much as a suggestion of how to help people get out of the vicious cycle of poverty and moral decay that they have known all of their lives. When you are raised in filth and squalor and a glorification of gang behavior and drug dealing as the best way out, you are only going to laugh at someone waving a sign with a Bible quote on it or who's telling you, "You know, if you just get happily married before having babies and if you go to church and go to college and get a good job, you'll be much better off and your kids won't turn out to be criminals and gang bangers and drug dealers."

You self-righteous, preachy, button-down righties and your delusional "just-do-the-right-thing" attitudes would be funny if you weren't so pathetic.

July 25, 2013 at 3:30 p.m.
LaughingBoy said...

Rickaroo you seem to be giving up on all of those people, thinking they can't achieve.

July 25, 2013 at 4:01 p.m.
LaughingBoy said...

Rickaroo's post is liberalism at its worst

July 26, 2013 at 10:01 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

JR, those girls who "breed like a pack of wild dogs" are having the babies that you claim are so precious that the very thought of aborting them is unconscionable to you. You and the rest of you teabagging nitwits want to force them to have those kids who immediately will become hapless victims of their impoverished environments - "moochers" and "takers" is how you guys like to label them. You think it's government's role to force them to become mothers against their will but not government's role to provide them with contraception to prevent the pregnancies in the first place, and certainly not government's role to help provide for those kids once the mothers are denied the option of aborting. You seem to think it's enough to say that teenagers whose hormones are raging and on fire with desire should "just say no" to sex, wait until after they are married, and live like the Cleaver family, problem solved. You and your ilk are as unrealistic and self-righteous and dense as you can possibly be.

LB, it's not a matter of "giving up" on people in the ghettoes, projects, and slums. It's a matter of looking at the statistics and the grim reality of the situation. Do some people manage to overcome their impoverished environments and pull themselves up by their boot straps? Sure. But it's very, very difficult nowadays for anyone to have the strength and the inner fortutude to be able to do that, especially when the cards are as heavily stacked against them as they are. And instead of doing anything to provide more opportunities for them to step up and out of that environment you libertarian/teabagging numbnuts only want to strip away every form of public assistance and whine about the "evils" of government aid in any form. You favor a system that is heavily rigged in favor of the rich getting richer and richer and richer and are doing everything in your power to make it harder and harder and harder for people to take a step up the ladder so that they might then be in a position to actually do more for themselves.

Watch the film "The House I Live In." It's a good, matter-of-fact documentary that shows how those who are raised in the ghettoes and slums of the inner city are constantly exposed to the glorification of gangs and selling drugs (thanks to the "war on drugs" that is itself creating the black market and the drug lords who profit from it) as their ticket to riches. The "American Dream" for them is becoming a successful pimp or pusher and being able to parade themselves through the streets and show off their bling and their pimped out cars and their expensive clothes. It is a self-perpetuating vicious circle and, once born into it, it is extremely difficult to get out of it. But I'm sure you won't see it that way. It seems to be enough for you to say that everybody should just pull themselves up by their boot straps and if they don't, well, let them die or rot. It's very simple for you in your la-la land of "just do the right thing."

July 26, 2013 at 11:26 a.m.
LaughingBoy said...

Billions, maybe trillions, of dollars have gone to the "less fortunate" over the past several decades. How exactly do you think throwing money at the situation aids in opportunity when it's becoming standard that many will not take advantage of any such opportunity? Why not, when blame Whitey/the Rich/excuse of the week can be used and then supported by guilty white folks?

July 26, 2013 at 1:54 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

LB, You are correct insofar as just throwing money at a problem is not the answer. But neither is just cutting money off that helps provide food, education, health care, housing, and other support for the needy. No matter what we do money is going to have to be spent. It's a matter of spending it wisely. Just because people at the bottom rung of the ladder are completely cut off and faced with starvation or being homeless doesn't mean that they will then buckle down and be forced to "do the right thing." Chances are far greater that they will simply resort to crime or any other illegal activity out of desperation and self preservation.

The first thing that needs to be done is to end the senseless "war on drugs." It is primarily targeting blacks and other minorities and having a more devastating impact on them than anyone else. There a fewer father figures in the lives of poor kids because so many dads are locked up for 10 or 20 years or even for life, for minor drug offenses. Making a criminal problem out of what is essentially a health problem, the drug war is doing the exact same thing that prohibition did in its day, when it created the mobsters who became rich and infamous from their bootlegging activities. The banning and illegality of drugs has created the ruthless cartels and the inner city drug lords because there is so much money to be made in the black market. Imagine the money we would have at our disposal to use constructively if we did not squander it all playing "wack-a-mole" with the drug dealers and users. It's a never-ending, pointless, hopeless fight and the DEA and vice squad units are as ruthless and unsavory as the dealers and users they go up against. But there is too much money to be made off this drug war and those who are getting filthy rich off it are not about to lose their never-ending flow of cash. It is those greedy bastards whose "virtues" of industriousness and capitalistic endeavors that you righties like to praise and bow down to as being the paragons of the American way.

We live in a sick, rotten system that places profits before justice and fairness. The American Dream is not about making the most money you can make and to hell with everyone else. You rabid righties have twisted it such that you try to make greed a virtue. It's not. There is nothing wrong with being rich and some rich folks are very good people and strive to do the right thing. But there are plenty of greedy rich folks who are nothing but selfish and spoiled and rotten to the core and they deserve every bit of scorn and ridicule they get.

Now, I've said all I'm going to say on this matter. I stand by everything I've said and to hell with what you wing-nuts think. Have a nice day.

July 26, 2013 at 3:50 p.m.
chet123 said...


July 27, 2013 at 8:09 a.m.
chet123 said...




July 27, 2013 at 8:59 a.m.
chet123 said...


July 27, 2013 at 9:01 a.m.
fairmon said...

Legalize drugs, gambling and prostitution then regulate and tax them with all tax money going to educate, train and assist those children in poverty. Create decent jobs and work for all those able bodied that will work and if they refuse to work or will not do good work then let them suffer the hardships that come with irresponsibility. I see nothing wrong with providing birth control which is much cheaper than supporting a kid or the results of a kid in a home that will not provide and help them grow up to be responsible contributing adults. I see nothing wrong with voluntary government funded abortions if sterilization is included.

Describing the situation and evoking sympathy and placing blame comes easy but solutions seem pretty scarce in the post I have read. I see, it is the fault of that other party!

July 27, 2013 at 5:13 p.m.
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