Saturation roundups; how well do they squeeze out gang violence?
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Officially, it wasn't a "CAGE" (Chattanooga Area Gang Enforcement) roundup.
But Friday's 'citywide saturation' fits Boyd Patterson's definition of a key component in the battle to stem gang violence.
"Saturations fit into the big picture," the Co-Director of Chattanooga's gang task force says. "Because gang members understand that police are on the same page."
The roundup netted nine arrests for felonies and 41 for misdemeanors, according to a news release from Chattanooga Police.
Twelve arrestees are identified as gang members. But police won't 'name names' so as not to glorify the suspects' exploits.
"They may get street cred," Patterson says. "But they'll have to decide whether or not the street cred is worth the new consequences."
Police have released the names of 42 people that the roundup targeted. As of Monday night, six were in the Hamilton County Jail; one robbery suspect, two charged with domestic assault, one for possession of a controlled substance, one for possession of drug paraphernalia, and one for contempt of court for failure to pay child support.
"It may make people feel secure, but we've seen that before," Richard Bennett says.
Bennett saw variations on saturations when he himself would have been a target of them. These days, he heads 'A Better Tomorrow', which offers programs aimed at weaning members, and at-risk teenagers, away from gangs.
"We may lock em up, but who's gonna bail them out," he asks. "Maybe it's their mamas. Their grand mamas. That's who it really hurts."
Friday's numbers may bear that out. Channel 3 determined that 36 of the suspects arrested, were not in Hamilton County's jail Monday night.
They include those charged with robbery, assault, sexual battery, cocaine dealing, marijuana dealing, theft, and criminal trespass.
"To say that it's a revolving door for some folks, yes some may get out in less time than they deserve," Patterson says. "But just because it's not something that takes them off the street immediately, doesn't mean we shouldn't apply it."
Patterson's 'stick' includes lobbying lawmakers to toughen Tennessee's version of the federal RICO (Racketeer-Influenced-Corrupt Organizations) law, to recognize gangs as organized criminal conspiracies.
Gang affiliation alone could become a crime in itself. And the more charges racked up when caught up in 'citywide saturations,' the longer a gang member would spend in prison.
"But the problem we face dealing with them, is what is real and relevant to them now," Bennett says.
If they don't have income, if they don't have resources, we give them no way out.
Bennett and Patterson agree that the fight needs carrots too. Patterson spoke to the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce Monday, asking leaders to help create summer jobs and entrepreneurial programs.
"We're not talking dollars just yet," he says. "More of awareness."
But Bennett sees the makings of an early, long, hot, and dangerous summer, on this late March day in which temperatures pushed 80 degrees.
"Let's talk real numbers," he says. "A real number, to get us as a city acclimated to where we need to go? We're talking about $2 million."