published Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Waiting on the cavalry

Chattanooga had three more shootings over the weekend, bringing us to an estimated 85 in 2013.

Surprised? You heard that violent crime is down?

Yes, that's true to a point. Gun murders are even with last year, but nonfatal shootings are way up. But here's why you've only heard that from the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The FBI and police don't count nonfatal shootings as "violent" crime, though it's hard to imagine how much more violent crime can get than being shot -- even if you don't die.

In fact, the FBI, which mandates the types of statistics police departments must track, does not even have a category for nonfatal shootings. That means non-fatal shootings are not tracked anywhere, unless they get tucked into a very lesser assault category. So much for violent crime being down.

But back to Chattanooga, where shootings are up by 42 percent over those logged this time last year.

We know there is a plan being advanced by Mayor Andy Berke to address the growing violence, most of it attributed to youth gangs.

Part of the plan involves former Howard School Principal Paul Smith in the new city position of public safety director. He will coordinate efforts to provide opportunities for at-risk youth, partner with agencies, improve data collection throughout city government, monitor the progress of initiatives and update Berke's staff. Many of those tasks mirror the goals that former Mayor Ron Littlefield's gang task force strove to meet for the year it was in place. Berke disbanded the gang task force, and Smith has just begun his new job.

A second aim to regain control of the streets is to hire 40 new police officers. But thanks to existing police vacancies and expanded city boundaries as a result of annexation, the additional sworn personnel will only bring the ratio of officers to residents to 1-to-352, slightly better than last year when the ratio was 1-to-371.

A third effort is to find a way to control event clubs -- vacant buildings leased out for parties, so as to avoid safety inspections and drink licenses. At least three shootings have occurred at one of these event club locations, but in the months since the event club problem came to light, a council committee has discussed the matter but reached no decision, instead tossing the question back to the city attorney. The attorney has said authorities will "use the laws on the books." If the laws are adequate, why aren't they working?

A fourth effort involves the city paying for a federal prosecutor to take the repeat bad guys off the street by using tougher sentences for violent drug and gang crimes. But the bar on those tougher-sentences prosecutions was raised just weeks ago by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. Now, police and a city-paid U.S. attorney will have to work harder to be sure they have a case that will pass muster for the tougher sentencing standard.

All these points in current city plans are good. But they also all are futuristic. What about now? What are we going to do to stop these shootings while we're waiting for the cavalry?

"My hope is that it's enough," Mayor Berke told Time Free Press staff writer Beth Burger last week. "We have to be smarter. We have to be more effective. We have to be doing the right things. ... If it turns out we need to look at the numbers [of new police and investigators] again to fund our priorities, we certainly will."

He also noted that the department will undergo a management study.

Meanwhile, as of Monday, Chattanooga has had 85 shootings with 100 victims (10 have died) in 2013.

One hundred victims -- mostly young. This time last year, these numbers were 60 shootings with 69 victims. That's a 45 percent increase in victims-- mostly teens and young adults who have been wounded in drive-by shootings, shots fired into crowds and show-downs.

This is not the Wild West. This is not television. This is Chattanooga, Tenn., where we're supposed to be embarking on a sustainable future filled with lots of technology, good jobs and better education.

We ask again: What are we going to do while we're waiting on the cavalry?

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nucanuck said...

With such a large increase in non-fatal shootings there must be some underlying societal problem causing such a fall-off in marksmanship.

Is Chattanooga the only city experiencing this embarrassing fall-off in shooter accuracy? Does Chattanooga State offer a course in shooter proficiency? We certainly don't want it to become known that Chattanoogans are not straight shooters...civic pride and all.

August 20, 2013 at 2:21 a.m.
conservative said...

"Surprised? You heard that violent crime is down?"

No, I NEVER did believe it.

I am surprised this very Liberal writer explained the lie.

Kudos to the writer!

Violent crime especially youth crime is only going to get worse. These black youths were born out of wedlock, they were born into an immoral life receiving no moral instruction at home, their society or school.

Guess who saw to that?

If you are stumped you must be a Liberal.

August 20, 2013 at 6:54 a.m.
jjmez said...

Take gentrification off the table and these troubling communities will start to heal on their own. It took over 20 years, where plans to gentrify first began and arrive at this point. Therefore, it ill likely take a while to see any improvements, but the seeds for improvement will be take root and begin to sprout. No additional police, no special prosecutors, no longer jail sentences. All which are part of the cause/effect of everything that's taken place. Just re-investing and believing in the spirit and potential of the human experience. All humans.

While the public is looking for safety in hiring more police, the police are looking for job security, promotions, hefty retirements. That is not the solution. That's gravely a part of the problem. As problems begin to be manufactured to keep the funding rolling in.

August 20, 2013 at 9:14 a.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

All the training, equipment, pay raises, and take-home police cars don't matter if the cops don't have intelligence.

Saturday night's wild chase began when a police officer left his patrol car unlocked with the keys in it, and an innocent but arrested man in the backseat. DUH!

Cue the Benny Hill music.

August 20, 2013 at 9:57 a.m.
LaughingBoy said...

We need more midnight basketball.

August 20, 2013 at 12:49 p.m.
chet123 said...


August 23, 2013 at 10:52 a.m.
LaughingBoy said...

It's not just shooting, two teens beat an 88 year old WWII veteran to death. Again, "just for fun".

August 23, 2013 at 3:43 p.m.
jjmez said...

Coincidental, how much cops and criminals have in common these days, LaughingBoy?

Cops beat schizophrenic homeless man, Kelly Thomas, to death as he pleads for his life and call out to his father for help. July 5, 2011, Fullerton, California. Like art imitates life? Crooks imitating cops or is it cops imitating crooks? :/

August 23, 2013 at 5:08 p.m.
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