1 month later: VRI shows small successes - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

1 month later: VRI shows small successes

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -
"This is a new way we do business. This is not just a program," Public Safety Coordinator Paul Smith said of Chattanooga's Violence Reduction Initiative.

"The violence must stop. The killings must stop," he said. And that's been the message for about a month now.

The VRI, aimed at making Chattanooga's streets safer, is also designed to keep the offenders safe, too.

"The data has shown us who the key plays are that are driving the violence in this city," Smith said. "We have to have conversations with those people."

Since the first call-in four weeks ago, 18 people have been given the VRI message. Sixteen more have called seeking help, and four of them now have jobs. Small successes, the city says.

But no everyone is convinced yet.

"We hear gunshots every other day, police sirens all the time," said Sherrica Stallion, who lives in East Lake Courts. There has been no arrest in her son's father's murder, who was shot to death in February.

According to city crime data, there have been 34 shootings and 8 murders in 2014. At the same time last year, there were 40 shootings and 10 murders. They're slight decreases that the city hopes signal success.

Smith said reducing the violence won't happen overnight.

"We didn't get into this situation overnight; it happened over time," he said. "The true test of [the VRI] is going to happen over time."

If offenders are willing to take advantage of a job and other outreach programs, the city said prison time could be avoided. The 24-hour VRI phone number is (423) 485-1012.
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