published Monday, December 12th, 2011

Cook: 3 ways to spend $50,000

Fifty thousand dollars.

That's the estimated amount needed to treat a gunshot victim in the U.S. From emergency room treatment to care extended over the rest of his or her life, a gunshot victim will usually receive $50,000 in treatment, according to a 1999 study.

Nearly half of that was paid through Medicaid, Medicare, workers' comp and other government programs, said the study in The Journal of the American Medical Association. In other words, paid by taxpayers.

At the end of October, our city has witnessed 86 shootings with injuries this year. That's 86 gunshot victims, and according to police estimates, gang violence is involved in 65 percent of our city's homicides.

Fifty thousand dollars.

That's also a few thousand dollars more than the estimated cost to incarcerate two people in Tennessee each year. We, as taxpayers, spend $63.41 a day -- or roughly $23,000 a year -- to keep someone in jail, according to 2010 estimates by the Tennessee Department of Correction.

Fifty thousand dollars.

It's also the amount needed to fund research that comprehensively would establish a baseline measurement of gang activity in Chattanooga, said Boyd Patterson, the Hamilton County assistant district attorney charged with leading our city's newly formed response to gang violence.

From graffiti to truancy rates to the times of day arrests are made, this type of research pulls together every aspect needed to measure gang activity.

The work of reducing gang violence begins with this type of research. And it comes with a price tag of about $50,000.

"We're still in need of funding," said Patterson.

Our city sits at a precarious spot. One road leads to deeply established gang activity. If you think we have a gang problem now, multiply it by 10, and that's what it looks like to have a city with what researchers call "entrenched" gang violence.

Essentially, it's what happens when we don't do anything.

The other road leads to a reduction in gang violence. Gangs are here to stay, but their influence

can be countered by detouring kids into alternative programs, increasing crime suppression and strengthening community involvement.

It's part of a five-point plan called the Comprehensive Gang Model, which has been implemented in other cities.

And the first part involves assessment, or research. Any and every influence on gang activity is measured over a 12- to 18-month period. No lasting reduction in gang violence can happen without this assessment.

"We have not been able to secure funding yet," said Patterson.

Why not?

The city government partnered with the county to form the committee that Patterson leads. They've approved the Comprehensive Gang Model and begun work to reduce gang violence. But they can't fund the initial research to start the work?

The city of Chattanooga recently approved a $201 million annual budget for 2011-12.

Last month, it awarded nearly $70,000 to replace the Brainerd golf course greens with Bermuda grass. Two months ago, it awarded a blanket contract for city fencing, which could total out at a $500,000 price tag.

We have a wealth of community foundations in our town, each managing tens of millions of dollars. The Lyndhurst Foundation, for example, distributed nearly $15 million in grants in 2010.

I write this not to criticize, but to rather point out both the vast generosity of our city foundations and the enormity of our city budget. Fifty thousand goes into $201 million more than 4,000 times.

And I think, really and truly, that many leaders are getting serious about serious responses to gang violence. We can't wait any longer. So instead of asking who's going to find the money to pay for the research, I'll ask a different question:

Who's going to be first to jump at the chance to pay for the research?

"We're going to pay for gang violence one way or another," said Patterson. "We can pay for it on the back end or the front end."

David Cook can be reached at

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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fairmon said...

The priorities of the city council are confusing. People are not aware of the city owning and subsidizing several businesses that pay no proper taxes which includes two golf courses, a pharmacy, a hotel, a marina plus others and significant real estate. How do they see the arts and crafts department with a $2 million annual budget and other discretionary spending more important than addressing gang violence?

December 15, 2011 at 5:50 a.m.
01centare said...

I just hope they get sincere people in, and not just a group who are going to line their own pockets and set up a fake shop, exploit the situation and pretend they're doing something when they're not. Then when the money starts to run low they'll create another situation to keep the money rolling in and lining their pockets. That's why nothing has been accomplished in past efforts. Too many deceitful hands in the pot.

December 16, 2011 at 7 p.m.
rolando said...

Let's take that $50,000 per person cost, build a 40 foot wall around gangland, and set up free guns, firing ranges, and ammo for all carded gang members to better their accuracy.

Well placed shots means more kills, fewer wounded to treat.

Then turn them loose inside the wall and gather up and burn the bodies each morning. Cremation is cheap.

That's if all you are worried about is money.......

December 17, 2011 at 6:58 p.m.
jesse said...

the city DOES NOT subsidise either of the golf courses!

they stand or fall on their own,they get NO money from the city!what ever they take in THATS what they have to operate on!!

actualy the city has a net benefit from the golf courses,they ARE money makers!!

December 21, 2011 at 11:27 a.m.
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