Residents attribute silence to driving city's crime - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Residents attribute silence to driving city's crime

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As Chattanooga Police work to solve the city's 19th homicide of the year, it's highlighting an attitude that some believe is contributing to the city's crime. Residents in neighborhoods affected by recent shootings are saying that those on the streets need to break what's being called "the code of silence."

"They feel they're boxed in, and in a sense, we kind of understand that -- but not the violence," said Alton Park resident Skip Eberhardt.

According to Eberhardt, a lot of the city's violence seems perpetuated by what he calls "the code of silence."

"My main thing is to get this 'code of silence' broken," he said. "It's a 'law' that's being passed among the street people, and we're telling them we're not going to tolerate it."

Eberhardt knows a lot of people on the street, and says many of them live by the term "keeping it in the street." More or less, it means turning a blind eye to crimes and not reporting them -- or those involved -- on purpose, he said.

It could help explain why the city's most recent murder is still unsolved. Police believe the shooting death of 22-year-old Dominic Wright, also known as "Skream", was gang-related.

Eberhardt explained some people operate under the idea that "revenge, or getting back at somebody, [they] keep the police out of it and handle their own business."

"What that's doing is like a snowball going down the hill," he said. "This street to that street; this house to that house."

"The solution is changing the minds of these young men," said Tracy Belle, community activist.

He believes change can come not by breaking silence, but with passionate community members.

"It's not political. It's not monetary. It's passion to see the race do better," Belle said.

Perhaps doing better by not being so indifferent or uninvolved, said Eberhardt.

"It's not actually snitching," Eberhardt said. "What it is helping is those who could lose their life." And that's already happened enough this year. Thursday's murder on Foust St. marks the city's 19th homicide this year. For all of 2013, there were 19 homicides.

"We're not going to tolerate their street laws to 'keep it in the street'," Eberhardt said. "We're not going to keep it in the street while they sit up and kill each other."

Anyone with information on the Foust St. murder is asked to call Chattanooga Police at (423) 698-2525.

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