Council members respond to letter calling VRI a "failed program" - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Council members respond to letter calling VRI a "failed program"

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

Councilman Yusuf Hakeem's letter is addressed to members of city council and Mayor Andy Berke, but he hopes the entire city reads it and offers their own opinions about the VRI.

"Well I certainly understand Councilman Hakeem's concern about the violence," says Councilman Chip Henderson

In his letter, Councilman Hakeem says the city's Violence Reduction Initiative is a failed program, and he claims there are a lot of people living in Chattanooga who agree with him.

READ MORE | Councilman says "Mayor Berke's VRI has failed Chattanooga"

"And we today have out of control violence on our streets, that says we have to do it a different way," Hakeem says.

Henderson agrees the recent violence is proof the city has a lot of work to do. But says he doesn't want to voice a concern, without also offering up a solution.

"It's easy to say that it's not working, to sort of have a knee jerk reaction, but we've to got to be willing to say, this is what we want to do, and then give it time to work," Henderson says.

Channel 3 reached out to all nine council members who are divided on their opinions of Hakeem's letter.

Councilman Moses Freeman echoed Henderson's opinion and says, "this program shouldn't take all the blame. I support giving it a chance."

Councilman Chris Anderson says he doesn't want to get involved at this time, and has no comment.

Councilman Larry Grohn says he agrees with the letter, and says the overall perception of the VRI, is that it's not working.

"With the amount of resources and tax dollars that have been dedicated to this program, I expected to see a reduction in violent crimes," Councilman Ken Smith says. "I believe it’s time to evaluate ways to make this program more effective rather than just calling for its elimination without solutions to offer."
    
Hakeem says he can no longer support the VRI in the city's budget, and wants to talk with Mayor Berke and other council members about an alternative solution to stop the violence.

"We have to put forth some positive things like jobs, training and other things, to give them an opportunity to go beyond and to know more than what they do from the streets," Hakeem says.

The next strategic planning meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday at 11 am, and it's expected the council will be talking about this issue. That meeting is open to the public.

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