Chattanooga gangs hold secret meeting, working toward 'cease fire'
Sunday night, former and current gang leaders held a secret meeting and some are calling for a cease fire.
CHATTANOOGA, TN. (WRCB) -- Community involvement has been a focus of Chattanooga's efforts to curb gang violence. But some believe the solution is to go straight to the source. Sunday night, former and current gang leaders held a secret meeting and some are calling for a cease fire.
Channel 3 spoke with a Chattanooga man who knows the street life all too well and was at that meeting.
Sixty-two-year-old Steven 'Skip' Eberhardt has spent time in and out of jail but now he devotes his time to the organization he started: "Saving Kids, Instilling Pride."
He says believe it or not, the proposed changes are coming from gang members themselves.
"I was there to witness, these young men want to completely stop all this violence," says Eberhardt.
In the secrecy of night in an undisclosed location, Skip Eberhardt met with those who run the Chattanooga streets in an effort to stop the shootings and violence.
"I'm talking about people that's got the influence and controlling this, you know."
No cops or city leaders were present. He says it was just straight talk.
More than 20 people were coming and going over a few hours, rivals sometimes crossing paths.
"They get together and wanted to have a peace treaty, you know, we all have to get along," says Eberhardt.
He says it may be hard to believe, but current gang members are scared for their kids.
"Most of them have kids that are coming up now that are four or five years old and they know if they can put a stop to it now, it can affect their kids," says Eberhardt.
He says there is a common misconception that almost all the violence is 'gang-related.' Eberhardt says a lot of it comes from lack of direction.
"How can you get somebody to stop it, when you don't even know who to go to?"
Skip is using his street cred to be one of those point people. He is reaching out to young people, helping them obtain their GED.
"If they can be influenced or have mentors, see a better way of life, I actually think they'll do it," says Eberhardt.
He says so far it is working. He says many young people are crying out for help and they just need someone to listen.
"He's a great mentor," says Dominic Bowman.
The GED tutoring is a new start for people like 22-year-old Bowman, who dropped out of high school.
"It gives you more opportunities, like you can be something in your life," says Bowman.
Skip says it is only the beginning, saying they want more than a GED. Many want to go to college to have a career.
"It's day one now, so we'll see how it goes from here."
Skip's classes have been going for about three months now and he is helping around 45 young people test for their GED.
In the meantime, he says Sunday night's secret meeting was about three months in the making, getting almost all sides to come together.
He says there is still more work to do and there will most likely be more meetings in the future.