Schools struggle to fight growing crime rate - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Schools struggle to fight growing crime rate

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB)  --  A Better Tomorrow founder and CEO, Richard Bennett, believes the recent string of shootings targeting teenagers is a sign things will get worse before they get better.

Bennett knows first hand, years ago he was a part of a different lifestyle.

"When I couldn't read, when I couldn't understand and I couldn't grasp the concepts of social economics or status of life, I did the same thing," says Bennett.

He has spent his last 15 years reaching out to at risk youth, the last ten years were spent working in the Hamilton County School System.

"You got young men thriving in an environment, trying to have an economic base. They don't have jobs, they don't have accessibility, they don't have opportunity," Bennett explains.

Channel 3 wanted to know if groups like A Better Tomorrow work together in schools to combat the growing crime problem.

"I was approached initially by Boyd [Patterson] and them on some things. They said they were formulating some things but not here as of late," explains Bennett.

"A Better Tomorrow is one that we've had some contact with. I'd love to have five Richard Bennetts," Boyd Patterson with the Gang Task Force says.

Patterson says the school programs in place now to educate students and teachers about crime and gang activity needs an upgrade.

"I can clearly say that of the 800 plus Department of Education employees that were a part of the assessment, one of the overwhelming responses that came back was asking for more training," says Patterson.

It's a step in the right direction, but Patterson says it starts outside of the classroom. "Everyone needs to understand, the way out of this is for the folks in effected areas to step forward," says Patterson.  

"All these different things that we do to bring awareness is wonderful but until you start the process no change is happening," says Bennett.

Patterson says they are working on reaching out to middle schoolers about gang activity in at risk areas. Officials have also discussed expanding the Student Resource Officer program, however the plans were halted by budget issues.

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