New program aimed at breaking street "code of silence" - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

New program aimed at breaking street "code of silence"

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -  Chattanooga Police are trying to help break what's often referred to as the "Code of Silence." After violent crimes occur, many witnesses and victims are unwilling to cooperate with police.

That was the case with Chattanooga's most recent unsolved shooting of a 21-year-old man on Wilson St. The victim told police he would not prosecute or appear in court if a suspect was apprehended.

But police are working with the community and trying to change that attitude, said Chief Fred Fletcher.

"Most of our leads tend to be from the victim, the victim's friends, witnesses, especially early on. And without that information, it can make it very difficult," Fletcher said.

It's a common problem after shots are fired. Surviving victims won't talk to police. It puts a strain on investigations.

"Unwilling, unable, or a little hesitant to cooperate in criminal investigations, particularly in nonfatal shootings," said Fletcher.

"My main thing is to get this code of silence broke," said Alton Park resident Skip Eberhardt. He explained a 'code of silence' in the streets as knowing information -- but keeping police out of it.

"It's not actually 'snitching', it is being a help to those who could lose their life," he said.

Chattanooga Police launched a new program called the CPRVV -- Community Police Response to Victims of Violence. It involves community members -- friends, family and pastors who are familiar faces in crime-heavy neighborhoods.

"When they come in with the police officer, we have more effective communication and have more tendency to get
the information we need for the investigative process," said Asst. Chief Tracy Arnold.

But not everyone is convinced it will work. Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association's Tiffany Rankins is one of them.

"I'm not sure anybody in their right mind would want to get caught in the middle of hearsay with criminal activity going on," Rankins said.

But Fletcher said it's a step to start bridging the gap between community and police. And the bottom line is safety.

"We want everybody to be and feel safe, and we're committed to using every resource, every technique, every
program we can," he said.

Seventy community members showed up to the CPRVV's first meeting last week, and the next meeting is planned for mid-September. To get involved, contact Chattanooga Police Asst. Chief Tracy Arnold at (423) 643-5000.

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