published Saturday, March 26th, 2011

91⁄2 weeks, 19 shootings

In the 91⁄2 weeks from Jan. 16 to March 23, last Wednesday, there were 19 separate shootings in the city in which four people were killed and 21 other victims — mostly teenagers and young men in their 20s — suffered wounds. Most of these shootings occurred in urban neighborhoods where violence and gun shots are not uncommon. And then there was the flash-mob last Saturday night in Coolidge Park, the city’s prized and heavily visited riverfront park, that quickly produced a gang-related brawl and random gunshots which, fortunately, wounded no one.

The string of shootings became most intensive in March. Chattanooga Police Department records reported shootings occurred on March 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 12 (2), 14, 15 (2), 16, 21 and 23. In all, the March string included 13 shootings in 19 days involving 16 victims.

An epidemic

This is not just a rash of shootings; it’s a virtual epidemic. Indeed, it suggests the larger reason that Chattanooga was cited as one of “20 cities you don’t want to live in” on an CNBC newscast this week: A crime rate that is more than double the national average after nearly a one-third reduction over the last decade.

The March shootings alone, involving so many young shooters and young victims, beg the attention of city leaders. They must, finally, engage seriously in the work of suppressing crime, particularly by gun-carrying youths who seem to be shooting rival gang members.

This work will be arduous, difficult, expensive, resource-intensive and time-consuming. It won’t be accomplished quickly, nor is it likely to be entirely successful even with the best efforts. But the downside is worse. If the effort is not pursued intensively, the city’s gang problem (there are approximately a dozen gangs) is bound to worsen. The societal circumstances that fuel street crime, especially gang-related crime, only fester and grow if left unattended.

A spreading gangland

Just a surface review of federal Justice Department studies on youth gangs confirms that. A 2001 report from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention noted that gangs had spread from just 19 states in the 1970s to all 50 states and Puerto Rico by the 1990s. By the end of the 1990s, gangs were found in 3,700 communities, totaled more than 1 million members and committed over 600,000 crimes.

While the South ranked lowest in gangs in the 1970s, it ranked second by the 1990s. Across the country, all of the approximately 200 cities with populations of more than 100,000 reported gang problems by 1998.

Surely the problem has worsened in the last decade. In Chattanooga, there is no room for doubt about that.

The causal factors, long apparent, clearly line up with Justice Department reports. As one report puts it, they typically include “poverty and social disorganzation ... institutional racism, cultural misadaptation, deficiencies in social policy and the availability of criminal opportunities.” The social policy jargon is easy to decipher, and plain to see in Chattanooga’s poorer neighborhoods: poverty, fractured families, the absence of fathers, disinterest in school, joblessness, a lack of constructive community activities for young people, and an environment tainted by drugs, crime and misadventure.

Disadvantaged youth from impoverished homes are ready targets for gangs, which lure new members into their web by offering group identity and group protection. And once involved, studies show, members are far more likely than non-members to engage in violent and drug-related crimes.

Efforts to suppress youth crime are almost rote by now. One Justice Department report emphasizes the five basic strategies used to address youth gangs: “Neighborhood mobilization, social intervention, provision for social and economic opportunities, gang suppression and incarceration, and an organizational development strategy.” None of this is new, but the city’s police gang unit is understaffed, and the community has not been adequately engaged.

The veterans’ challenge

When veteran Chattanooga police officers Napoleon Williams and Frank Williams called for a meeting Friday with city leaders and the community’s black leaders to address the wave of violence, they invoked the first two elements of the suppression formula by calling for curfews for minors and more parental control over their kids.

That’s a good place to start, but it will take deep commitment to an immense, long-term effort to organize and engage parents, to deliver constructive after-school community programs, to steer at-risk youth away from gangs, and to break up, reform or incarcerate gang leaders.

The gun show loophole

It also would take a regional or national movement to tighten gun laws to help reduce the underground sewer of gun-running to young criminals. The first step on this improbable path would be to close the notorious gun-show loophole, which allows individuals to sell guns to other individuals in gun shows without background checks, registration or record keeping. The wide-open gun market that this shameful loophole provides enables anyone 18 or over to walk into gun shows and buy an arsenal of weapons that can easily be resold on the street without a trace.

Given the current propensity of state lawmakers to pander on and pass radical new gun-rights pushed by the NRA in state legislatures around the country, Southern state lawmakers are not likely to close the gun-show loophole on a state-by-state basis.

Easy guns, harder work

With easy access to guns a given, stemming gun violence will be infinitely harder. But the effort must start somewhere. The best place to start here is for Mayor Littlefield to heal his rift with the city’s police department and unify resources to make crime suppression and neighborhood initiatives a major focus, and not just a talking point. The County Commission, which routinely neglects both its municipal constituents and schools, could help by ending its war with the school board and its underfunding of the county school system to facilitate more after-school programs in inner-city schools.

Churches, parents, neighborhood and civic organizations must play a role, too. Suppressing youth crime and making poorer neighborhoods safer is as much about mentoring, caring about and guiding young people as it is about laying blame on others. Everyone here has a stake in the outcome, and role to play.

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dih2006 said...

The full title of the CNBC article cited here is "20 Cities You Don't Want to Live In ... Yet" with 'yet' italicized. This list features cities like New Haven, CT; Baltimore, MD; New Orleans; St. Louis; and many others. The full article is available here.

March 26, 2011 at 12:29 p.m.
Sailorman said...

What an inspiring article.

It's somebody else's fault. AND It's the fault of an inanimate object.

You actually brought up the "gunshow loophole" as a root cause? It's not a loophole and has nothing to do with gunshows. Parroting a Brady Bunch soundbite does nothing for your argument.

Everything will improve after the guns are gone and the third verse of kumbayah is sung.

This insipid trash passes for journalism today eh?

March 26, 2011 at 1:12 p.m.
FreedomJournal said...



Greetings Brethren,

Peace be unto you. We are grateful to Almighty God our father and to His son our Savior Christ Jesus blessed by the Holy Spirit.

This discussion on the Black family now moves over to the realm of hate more so than control as guilt was an exclusive experience of the confused and at times brain-washed mother’s.

Meanwhile the record reveals in the suppressed and censored dissertation material rejected by the Atlanta University department of Political Science(1980-1986) “The Black Conspiracy: The Rise and Fall of a Commission Form of Government, Chattanooga, Tennessee” that a particular system of control and hate came into existence to control and manipulate the Black electorate. This system developed soon after the unconstitutional Commission Form of Government was established in 1911 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The emerging and chosen lackey in 1928 (Negro Straw Boss HNIC) was a truant officer and member of the Republican Party. He began to set the precedents for the role and attitude of the Straw Boss and the Criminal Political economy that grew out of this oppressive system. As he established the Chattanooga Voters League to foster his Straw Boss activities he also started a yellow rag newspaper called the Chattanooga Observer. Let the record show that the Chattanooga Blade and the Chattanooga News Weekly have been the only independent Black media voices in the history of Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Meanwhile a crowning achievement among the Straw Boss leadership ranks was the concessions (derived from the White power structure) for all jobs in the Black community of any importance. These jobs included any pay scale. They also included blue collar and white collar jobs. School teaching as a vocation has had a history of being the most prevalent professional job in the Black community since Blacks were freed from slavery and received the right to vote. At that time even operating the elevator at City Hall was considered a good job for Black folk. Also the Straw Boss had to recommend you for the job in order for you to be hired.

Carl A.Patton, FreedomJournal Press>

FreedomJournal said...


A natural result of this system ran by immoral and sinful people eventually involved sexual exploitation of countless Black women who had to pay with their body and soul to receive a job and help feed their families. Thus the sanctioned concessions of the Straw Boss and his cronies became one of the Blackest Blots on the history of Black people in North America. However in this instance it was sponsored and carried out by Black people. For the record White people only allowed this to take place they did not actively are directly participate but just turned their head to the back of the wind. So this gross sexual exploitation of Black women came from sexually addicted Black men.

So as the precedents were set a new era eventually approached brought on by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Throughout the Southern political landscape the White power structure sought out qualified Blacks to run for public office. In Chattanooga the qualifications had nothing to do with skill are credentials however. Because the White power structure still thrived on the old Negro Straw Boss system. Therefore by 1972 they chose a good Safe Negro undertaker and installed him as the first Black on the Chattanooga City Commission.

During his reign in office there was a calculated and planned effort to tightly control the Black electorate through his partners in crime by way of the Black Caucus of Black precinct chairpersons and the Hamilton County Democratic Party leadership. For the record the Black control politics had now shifted from the Republican ranks to the Democrats.

Meanwhile sexual exploitation of Black women reached a new level as the cadre of slave drivers enlisted by the chosen Straw Boss passed many un-suspecting Black women around like rag dolls. Thus the Negro Straw Bosses set out on a big on-going party train. On the party train eventually there were drugs and the legal drug of alcohol was spilled on the ground and on the tainted bodies of the defiled and rejected of society.

Eventually other concessions were realized due to the control of the Black electorate and a Criminal/Political economy soon developed.

Carl A. Patton, FreedomJournal Press>

hambone said...

What Chattanooga needs is a drive-by shooting Range. Being a better shoot from a moving vehicle will reduce the number of innocent victims hit by stray bullets and reduce the number of those seeking revenge after they get out of Erlanger !

March 27, 2011 at 9:23 a.m.
nucanuck said...

With so many advanced countries having so little gun violence compared with the US,it makes me think that there must be a failure of imagination to not work toward reducing guns in our society. Apparently we believe violence is the measure of choice in conflict resolution.

In addition to killing each other,no other country has done so much to arm the rest of the world. Often the weapons we supply end up used against us when we intervene in other countries' affairs. Yemen, our client state, has three fire arms for every person. The Libyan rebels are getting US weapory via Egypt and Sausi Arabia.

It is almost as if guns define us, or at least partially.

March 27, 2011 at 2:48 p.m.
holdout said...

It isn't the guns but the people who use them. Look at Switzerland. They are armed to the teeth and have nothing like the violence we have here. When I lived in London I felt no safer than I do now.

March 29, 2011 at 10:27 a.m.
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