Chattanooga Public Safety Coordinator: "It's personal for me"
A former Hamilton County principal is hoping to influence the lives of young people in a different way.
It is Paul Smith's first week as Chattanooga's new Public Safety Coordinator. He is hitting the ground running, working to implement Mayor Andy Berke's public safety plan.
Smith says while you can analyze crime by the numbers, he is emotionally invested in making the community step up to fight violence.
"With this new position, we have opportunities to affect change," says Smith.
After six years at Howard High School, Smith is taking on the new challenge of Public Safety Coordinator for Chattanooga.
"It's personal for me. I've buried too many kids. I've eulogized a student, just two years ago. My heart is in this community and with this group of kids."
It is a passion Mayor Berke recognizes.
"We all know that there is a growing problem with youth violence, and he has a clear understanding working with that issue over the years," says Berke.
"I have an insight into some of the subtle nuances that go in the community and the neighborhood," says Smith.
As a part of the mayor's plan, the administration is working to create an online 'crime scorecard,' taking a closer look at crime with numbers.
"We're going to take a data approach to things, but we don't want to get muddied in the data. We'll look at the data, just aggregate the data, let the data tell us a story and then from that, we'll re-write the story," says Smith.
When asked about specific areas of public safety he wants to tackle, Smith says,"There are a number, but we'll wait on a later time to speak on those. We need to get in and get our feet wet."
Smith says overall, his focus right now is gathering information and building relationships, saying it will be a 'collective' effort.
"This opportunity is going to be great for us to just come in, do our studies, have those conversations, build relationships in the community and work at a macro level to make Chattanooga a safe place for our citizens to live and a great place for folks to come visit," says Smith.
While at Howard High, Smith helped turn the school around. At one point the state threatened to take over but in his time there the graduation rate almost doubled.
Other facets to Berke's safety plan include the creation of a public safety council and an in-depth study of the Chattanooga Police Department.