published Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Anti-gang coordinator urges Chattanooga to spend $75,000 for crime study

by Cliff Hightower
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    Assistant District Attorney Boyd Patterson speaks to a board of officials about what needs to be done to remedy Chattanooga's gang problem recently at the County Courthouse off Georgia Avenue.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
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Should the city spend $75,000 for a study on local gang violence?

The new coordinator of a mayoral initiative to combat gangs urged City Council members Monday to spend $75,000 on a study of the problem.

"We need to find out specifically why our kids are joining gangs," said Boyd Patterson, coordinator for the city's Comprehensive Gang Initiative.

Mayor Ron Littlefield has asked the council to redirect $75,000 earmarked for minority business development toward the gang assessment. The council is expected to vote on the request at its meeting tonight.

Patterson spent an hour Monday morning, discussing plans for the Comprehensive Gang Initiative. It was the same presentation he gave to city and county officials a week ago in a gang task force meeting.

Some council members are still hesitant about handing over the $75,000.

"What I'm trying to do is get my arms around why we need to hire someone when the Ochs Center has already put this together," said Councilwoman Carol Berz.

Every two years since 2006, the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies has released its State of Chattanooga Region Report, which looks at such areas as health, education and crime in the area.

Patterson said the new assessment would assemble findings under one umbrella. He said he does not think a recent study has been completed on gang activity.

The cost could come in less than $75,000. If the city finds a lot of the research already has been conducted, it would not pay for the research to be collected a second time, he said.

"We don't necessarily have to take the money and hand it over," he said.

Councilman Russell Gilbert said he is concerned about taking money from programs that could create jobs.

He also had harsh words for Patterson's presentation and initiative.

"Everything in your presentation has been done," Gilbert said.

Patterson agreed.

"A lot of collaborations have been done and exist," he said. "But we're talking about including everyone."

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