Gang Task Force head meets with city council - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Gang Task Force head meets with city council

CHATTANOOGA -

(WRCB) Saturday's killing in Orchard Knob has given Boyd Patterson a front-lines view of Chattanooga's War on gangs that he didn't have as an Assistant District Attorney.

It also reconfirms his view of the players.

"There's some people that are hangers and not bangers," he tells members of City Council. "That's the way the street defines them, all right."

Chattanooga's Rec Centers already target the age-groups at risk for 'hanging.'

"What's gonna keep me focused is my parents and my friends, says Shellie Hampton, 13, a Turner Middle School student who aspires to be an astronaut.

But how do you get those who need it most, to 'hang' there?

"You still need the hard core person coming in," Council member Russell Gilbert tells Patterson. "The person on the street that really has done the things they shouldn't have done in the past, and changed his life around."

Street cred, or the credibility question, has prompted Gilbert and Council member Carol Berz to question why Patterson is pushing for Chattanooga to launch another study of the gang threat.

" I don't think Chattanooga's unique," Berz says. "Roughly everybody is facing financial challenges, so I'm trying to get my arms around why we need to be doing this.

Gilbert also opposes paying for the study with the $75,000 earmarked to help minorities start their own businesses.

"Some of those minorities are gang members looking to get out of the life," he says. "They can't get hired, so they have to start their own businesses. That's just counter-productive."

"Hopefully, the study--where the money comes from, can lead to more money for that," Patterson answers.

Many federal agencies and private foundations require studies in order to make applicants eligible for grant money to fight gang problems, he explains.

But how do persuade the bangers that there's no money in violence?

Federal RICO (Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations) law helped break the Mob in the 1980's by making membership in organized crime families a crime in itself, Patterson explains.

"But Tennessee's own RICO law has no teeth," Patterson says. "It doesn't really deal with gangs at all; only big-time dope dealers and child pornographers."

Changing that will require help from state lawmakers. But C.A.G.E. (Chattanooga Area Gang Enforcement) hasn't drafted any legislation, nor targeted who Hamilton County and Bradley County's delegations might sponsor it.

"The phrase you're gonna here throughout this is 'total collaboration,' Patterson says.

His PowerPoint presentation to Council members outlines how C.A.G.E. will include representatives from government, law enforcement, courts, school districts, churches and the private sector. Patterson is counting on consensus in developing the strategy, even if the parties disagree on tactics.

Gilbert appears willing to leap on faith.

"We need somebody like him (Patterson) to lead and not get influenced by me, by anybody in authority," Gilbert tells reporters.

"We need to keep the mission going."

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(WRCB) – Boyd Patterson, the newly appointed coordinator forChattanooga's Gang Task Force, met with members of the Chattanooga City CouncilMonday morning. Channel 3's Gordon Boyd was there, and covered Patterson's presentation to the council.

Patterson started off the meeting by saying the primary goal of the new Gang Task Force, announced last week by Chattanooga Mayor RonLittlefield, is to cut the pipeline to gangs recruiting kids, starting as early as 3rd grade. He noted that middle school is the primary time when kids decide to join gangs.

His initial plan to develop intervention teams that will require outreach workers and referrals from teachers, pastors, police, Department of Children's Services workers, service providers, and juvenile court officials,among many others.  The coordinator will reach out to the families of at-risk kids. An intervention plan set that could include counseling, tutoring, and job training before gang influence is entrenched.  

Noting that the faith community in the city is "highly motivated", Patterson also spoke about the role the city's recreation centers will play, including an increased focus on identifying why kids join gangs in the first place and how the centers can work to change that mindset amongst youth.

"We have these kids all day," Patterson told council members. "We can't be anti-gang without offering something positive."  He specifically urged the business community to get involved by offering

However, Patterson said that a comprehensive assessment of gang problem needs to be completed, saying it was the key to success of any attempt to fight the influence of gangs. To that effect, he affirmed Littlefield's request that the council divert $75,000 originally earmarked to the Multicultural Chamber of Commerce to fund the study.

But even that amount of money will not be enough.  "My hope is that some rich foundation would ‘Write a big check for this'," Patterson said.  "Every corner of our community shows these kids need jobs."

Patterson has a Special Prosecution Assistant in the DistrictAttorney's Office, focusing on prosecuting gang members. He was responsible for developing Chattanooga's Master Gang List, identifying gang member in the city.He also developed programs to match known gang members to court docket sand the probation lists.

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