Families impacted by city's gang violence speak about VRI - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Families impacted by city's gang violence speak about VRI

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

As the number of shootings and homicides continue to rise in Chattanooga, it's the families of the victims who are most impacted by the violence.

According to Channel 3's records there have been 30 shootings this year in Chattanooga and six people killed.

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While city leaders argue over whether the VRI is working or not, Channel 3 talked with people who have been personally affected by the city's violence.

They give their opinions on what needs to be improved in order to prevent more grieving families in the city.

"I just want them to know I do care, and like I always tell them, I hold their hand, they could be my kid," said Brenda Johnson.

Brenda Johnson talks face-to-face with local gang members at several VRI call ins.
    
Her own son's murder remains unsolved. Michael Johnson was 20-years old when he was killed in a drive-by shooting in 2010.

"Unfortunately my son, he was in a gang, and you know, I really didn't think it was that crucial," Johnson said, "I really didn't. But now, there were some warning signs I could have picked up on."

She tells the young men now involved in crime, many of them she already knew from her son, she'll do whatever they ask to get them help, regardless of the fate of the VRI.

"They just really want somebody that cares you know," she said.

Eddie Worbington says he doesn't know much about the VRI, but he knows he's raising his son alone, after his son's mother was killed in a home invasion in 2012.
    
It was gun violence that tore his family apart.

"Pretty rough but I just pray about it and do what a father can," Worbington said, "Just trying to teach him that violence is not the way to do things."

Worbington has lived in East Lake Courts all his life, and used to be in a gang himself. He says he's watched many of the gang members involved in recent crimes grow up around him.

"None of us are in jail from being a gang member. and we're trying to teach them the same things," Worbington said.

He wants city leaders to start visiting Chattanooga neighborhoods in order to get more of the community involved.

"You have to have these certain meetings in these certain neighborhoods. You can't just have them at City Hall, or this place, you actually have to have the meeting in the neighborhood," Worbington said, "That's where you really can help."

Both of those murder cases remain unsolved.
    
In addition to this year's six unsolved murders, police are still working to make arrests in seven of last year's homicides.

The first VRI call-in in Chattanooga was in March, 2014. Since then there have been nine call-ins with 191 gang and group members in attendance.

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