City Council passes Coolidge Park ordinance - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: City Council passes Coolidge Park ordinance

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By Amy Morrow
Eyewitness News Anchor/Reporter

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- A week and a half ago, shots rang out at Coolidge Park after a large crowd of young people gathered. Several fights broke out and police reported half a dozen gunshots, several juveniles were arrested.

City leaders and police say it's time to strike back against the escalating violence among Chattanooga's young people.

They're starting with new rules at Coolidge Park, if you're under 18 you'll be leaving the park by six PM unless you're with a parent or guardian.

Roll call spills out an overwhelming "yes" to the new youth ordinance at Coolidge park. All council members giving a yea, only two nays, members Andrae McGary and Russell Gilbert, who voiced concerns early on.

"Ultimately this is fool heartedly and short sided if we know there's a problem and we have to wait until it takes place in another part of town," says McGary.

McGary voices concern that the ordinance pertains only to Coolidge Park and not other gathering spots in the city.Councilman Gilbert questions the timing.

"It took two incidents to happen in one area and all the sudden we need this... but people have been killed in other areas," says Gilbert.

"I don't see any reason not to start this and then it continues, it's a small part," says Councilman Peter Murphy.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield says this is just a tiny step in the right direction, that the city will soon be tackling related problems like curfew and truancy. Pointing out that this ordinance is not designed to send young people to jail.

"We think we need to send a message to the parents not so much the young... but be responsible for your children, take care and don't dump them off," says Littlefield.

The new rules, if you are under 18 you'll need a parent or guardian to roam Coolidge Park from the hours of 6pm to 6am. Some young people say the rule can spoil a good time for those who aren't troublemakers.  

"Placing a blanket restriction on age is discriminatory and doesn't hold accountable the people who are doing the criminal actions," says Chattanooga resident Heather Sivley.  

The Coolidge ordinance takes immediate effect. Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd did say he thinks this will work. He did point out that while this year may have the feel of being super-violent; the city has worked 13 shootings with 18 victims. This time last year it was 20 shootings with 26 victims, 5 of those were from the Coolidge Park shooting.

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