Chattanooga city leaders give update on 'High Point Initiative' - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Chattanooga city leaders give update on 'High Point Initiative' implementation

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

It is among the feedback city leaders hear the most, "reduce crime in Chattanooga." A key part of Mayor Andy Berke's plan is the 'Violence Reduction Initiative,' which started in High Point, North Carolina. Wednesday, the city's public safety coordinator updated the community on where things stand.

In October, city council approved $280,000 on a study tied to the High Point Initiative. Public safety coordinator Paul Smith says researchers have been busy performing intense crime mapping of Chattanooga, to reveal the individuals driving the violence. In the meantime, the city is busy assembling intervention teams to sit down and talk with gang leaders.

"When you talk to these individuals, it's like talking to anyone else. They want something better for their children," says Paul Smith.

Smith says the High Point Initiative is about giving one-on-one attention to gang leaders, sitting them down, and explaining their options.

"The methods and the common principles have worked in every city that they've been put in place," says Smith.

"My real interest is not so much crime as it is communities," says David Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

The New York-based criminologist specializes in stopping crime among inner city gangs. Kennedy tells Channel 3 the key is creating a lasting support group for gang leaders and members.

"We are trying to keep you alive and out of prison. And please, please, please go give your guys the benefit of what you're about to hear."

He says it is about changing behavior. Kennedy says in all the cities he has worked in so far, less than half a percent of the population is responsible for 75 percent of the crime. The goal is for groups to "police themselves" to avoid harsh punishment.

"This is not a negotiation," says Kennedy, giving an example of what is said to gang leaders. "We want you to listen to your community, we want you to take the help. But we are talking about people shooting other people in our city and it is going to stop."

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

Richard Bennett is the founder of  'A Better Tomorrow.' He has spent the past 15 years giving one-on-one attention to at-risk youth, telling them they have other options.

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

"We'll measure the success one person at a time," says Smith.

Kennedy says city leaders often skip over helping and go straight to punishment. He says before many of these offenders can enter a GED program or find work, they need counseling or just a place to sleep. Many Chattanooga city leaders have just finished going through training with Kennedy. The High Point Initiative will roll out at the beginning of the new year.

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