Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke talks about VRI one year later - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke talks about VRI one year later

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Channel 3 reporter Dan Kennedy (left) interviews Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke Friday morning. Channel 3 reporter Dan Kennedy (left) interviews Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke Friday morning.
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

Friday marks one year since the first "call in" in Chattanooga.  Call ins are part of Chattanooga's Violence Reduction Initiative program.

The goal of the year-old program is to curb violence on city streets. 

This week the Chattanooga City Council voted to renew the city's contract with the "National Network of Safe Communities" for the VRI.

Along with enhanced enforcement, city leaders hold these call-in meetings with gang members, and repeat offenders, to warn them they're under scrutiny, but also to help steer them toward a more positive path.  But trust is one of the biggest obstacles during those meetings.

Police tell them a whole gang could feel pressure from the law if members of their group commit violence.  

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke visited Channel 3 to talk about the status of the program. Gang-involved shootings are down 26-percent over the past six months.

"We know that one shooting is too much but by the same token, let's celebrate when we see the numbers drop," he said. "We're making progress, we've seen success stories and the numbers are going in the right direction."

Local NAACP President Dr. Elenora Woods has been a critic of VRI. She told Channel 3 in January that there was a "state of emergency in the black community." She said Friday she's still standing by that statement.

"It's not just in crime," she said. "It's in housing, it's in economic development, education. All of these areas are, in my opinion, the worst they could be at this time."

Woods said in year two of VRI, she wants to see more minority police officers and more job opportunities for blacks.

Mayor Berke said 76 if the VRI call-in participants got jobs in year one of the program.

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