Holding center in place for Coolidge curfew violators - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Holding center in place for Coolidge curfew violators

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Story by Megan Boatwright
Eyewitness News Reporter

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- A gang saturation sweep over the weekend netted more than a hundred arrests.

Police say it was their reaction to a spike in violence during the month of March.

It was the second saturation this month; a joint effort by Chattanooga Police and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

Of the 101 arrests, police say eight were gang-related.

Community leaders say curbing gang violence starts with our youth.

For the last week, city leaders have talked about imposing a youth ordinance at Coolidge Park.

A curfew, already in place, doesn't work because police have nowhere to hold teens while they track down parents.

Monday, the mayor told Eyewitness News he has new plans for an old police precinct.

Three months in to 2011 and already the city of Chattanooga has seen 20 shootings, a number that brought African-American community leaders to the steps of city hall Friday.

"We might need to do a curfew, it's on the books," says retired Chattanooga Police Officer Napoleon Williams.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield plans to tighten the reins on unsupervised teens roaming free.

"Some location where not just curfew violators, but perhaps truants in the future could be taken," says Mayor Littlefield.

The city of Chattanooga has a curfew for minors under 16: from 11:00 pm to 6:00 am on weekdays, midnight to 6:00 am on weekends.

"Well for the most part, honestly, the curfew ordinance is not enforced," says Chattanooga Police spokesperson Sgt. Jerri Weary.

Weary says the problem is the way the code is written. It states no minor arrested can be placed in confinement until he or she has first been taken home.

"This officer is held out of service for a lengthy period of time, which leaves his zone or her zone of district short an officer," says Weary.

That's where the vacant police precinct building on W. 40th Street comes into play.

"The space was available and it was almost eerie it is so well developed," says Littlefield.

The mayor's plan is to hold young people there until they're picked up by a parent, or bused home by the city.

"Don't let your young people go to Coolidge Park unattended and think everything's going to be fine; it won't be," says Littlefield.

The mayor hopes to have the new juvenile holding center up and running this weekend, and throughout the summer.

Then once school is in session the mayor says the center will also hold teens for truancy.

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