Judge Moon: "New approach" needed on gangs, violence
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)- Hamilton County Sessions Court Judge Bob Moon has issued a statement on truancy and the lingering gang/violence problem in Chattanooga:
"In reading the comments from Sheriff Hammond, General Boyd Patterson and Chief Bobby Dodd recently, their comments about the effectiveness of a "gang czar" are skeptical and doubtful. We have had a "drug czar" in this country for more than three decades; I doubt that you know who he or she is and it is doubtful that you can identify one thing that has been done toward the reduction of drug abuse and crime. They cannot get kids off the street on a school night at a reasonable hour, assist in homework, insist on going to bed at a reasonable hour nor are they there to assure that kid is compelled to attend class. In all candor, I really do not know what they do. Do you?
Government will never solve the inner origins of crime, truancy or gangs or provide the facility of solution to significantly reverse the complex origins of the problems. I certainly do not profess to have the answers, but I do know that a different approach and analysis must be undertaken. The primary source of the problems is the family and inside the homes where government cannot go or control without a search warrant or responding to a crime after the fact. In fact, the closest that government usually gets inside of the home for assistance is a sustenance check or food stamps in the mailbox.
A component part of a real beginning is the focus of truancy. Very few defendants ever go to jail who were not truant first. Bad students usually make bad citizens. Everyone knows this, but very little is being done to compel compulsory education and mandate consequences for illegal truancy in Hamilton County. Our local school board, administration, teachers and SRO cannot assure compulsory education alone. Our state report card speaks for itself and the study out of Shelby County is self-evident. Twenty five percent of all juvenile crime is committed during school hours. If our kids are not in school, then where are they and what are they doing?
Truancy in the elementary grades is largely a parental irresponsibility. Truancy in the upper grades are due predominately to poor curricula, a minority of ineffective teachers, bullying, fragmented families and host of other social human breakdowns that disenfranchises a kid's interest in education. Government can do some things and some programs are commendable, but in the big picture, gangs and juvenile violence can only be reduced by committed and responsible parents, teachers and our community working consistently together. One of my more memorable cases is a homicide case (drive by shooting) where the state's star witness was a twelve year old kid playing basketball on a school night at 2 a.m. He witnessed the killing.
The focus should not be just on money, programs, gang czars, summits and speeches. The focus should be the one that mothers, fathers, teachers and community leaders should be placing on themselves individually. Effective change could then perhaps come more quickly by personal and individual efforts one on one with a kid than in a group or committee rehashing failed programs and rhetoric of the past. The Boys and Girls Club of Chattanooga and First Things First have taken this approach with considerable success for many years in our community and across the nation.
Kids are our only next generation and each one of them is a personal and individual challenge for us all. I see too many young people dropping out of the classroom and dropping into the courtroom. Parental responsibility and quality education must catch up with the daily needs of kids instead of both getting farther and farther apart to the extent that there will be no understanding or communication. Historically, such calamity is the assured destruction and collapse of a failed nation. Marcus Aurelius succinctly stated that "All great nations fall from within before they fall from without."
Growing up in a four room house in East Lake with a wonderful mother who only had a 3rd grade education and a great father have enabled me to understand that so many good people in the inner city know that they live in this community but have never felt that they were a part of this community. I know that I never did until after I graduated from law school. Our family, like many of them, had few of things that money could buy, but almost all of the things that money cannot buy.
The inner city children's circles are so very small to the point that one eleven-year-old when traveling over the Veteran's Bridge asked me if the Tennessee River was the ocean. On another occasion, then-Chief Steve Parks and I were taking some kids on a field trip. When some of them were camping for their very first time at the Boys Club's Camp Kiwanis, we had to take several of them back home when it became dark and the bullfrogs and katydids began croaking and singing. They had never heard those sounds before and were terrified. They would have slept through sirens and gunshots.
Much of the illegitimacy in the inner city is due to children wanting to love and to be loved; they hope to find that in their own premature children. The reason for illegitimacy in those venues is so much more than just irresponsible physical relations. It is a matrix of emotions, need and despair."
Judge Bob Moon
Hamilton County Sessions Court