Chattanooga Violence Reduction Initiative began conducting call-ins and custom notifications to street group members in 2014. "The bottom line is we don't want any of these guys killed or locked up," says project manager Paul Smith. "We need them to influence people in their neighborhoods and communities."
Chattanooga Violence Reduction Initiative (VRI) began in fall 2013 under National Network advising. Under support from the City of Chattanooga and Mayor Andy Berke, VRI conducted a first call-in in spring 2014 and has begun using routine custom notifications to head off retaliatory violence. The city has also made headway in fostering a new support and outreach structure aimed at helping group members and keeping them alive and out of prison.
Chattanooga VRI partners have also developed a victim-oriented response to violence called the Community Police Response to Victims of Violence (CPRVV). The CPRVV largely follows central tenets of custom notifications, but the messages and services are geared specifically for those people who have been directly affected by gun violence, as well as their families.
Trauma may be a top public health priority and developing new solutions to help people cope may reduce violent crime.
Healing from Both Sides is a community support group for those who have lost loved ones to group and gang violence in Chattanooga, TN. The group reaches out to families who have lost children to violence, as well as those whose sons and daughters are in jail after acts of violence.
Brenda Johnson, of Chattanooga, regularly speaks at VRI call-ins as she seeks to end gun violence by telling her story to young men in her community.
A bit of insight into what a call-in looks and feels like.
"The Chattanooga Police Department will use $600,000 in grant money to hire social workers who will embed with officers, respond to calls and help victims through the trauma of a crime, according to police. nChief Fred Fletcher hopes the hires will fundamentally change the way officers support victims of crime and push the department to become more "victim-centered."
In this podcast, David Morton recommends David Kennedy’s book, Don’t Shoot, and discusses his recent experience as a third-party observer during one of Chattanooga’s Violence Reduction Initiative call-ins.
David Kennedy writes in the Times Free Press outlining why Chattanooga VRI was developed and urging the city to stay dedicated to the strategy. "It remains the best—if still an imperfect—route to preventing violence and incarceration among those most likely to be touched by both; helping law enforcement to do their job in a way that does not harm, and instead strengthens the communities they serve; and supporting the community to step forward, stand together with law enforcement, and reset its own public safety standards," Kennedy says. "We have yet to see a city where this has been done well and the streets have not responded--if not immediately, then sooner rather than later. Chattanooga is, and will be, no different."
Last week, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher D. Poole was recognized by the National Association of Former U.S. Attorneys with the Exceptional Service Award for his work with Chattanooga's Violence Reduction Initiative, initiated by the city in 2013. U.S. Attorney Killian congratulated him, “The Eastern District of Tennessee is fortunate to have many quality federal prosecutors. I am proud that Assistant U.S. Attorney Poole was recognized for his exceptional work with this important initiative with the city of Chattanooga.”
In the five months since Chattanooga's Violence Reduction Initiative began, 58 of the city's most violent offenders have landed jobs, and with the help of VRI, 42 have held onto those jobs. Police and community leaders also met face to face with 26 people to deliver custom notifications -- a personalized letter from Chief Fred Fletcher.
As he begins his second full week on the job, Chief of Police Fred Fletcher says Chattanooga's Violence Reduction Initiative is on track.