The decision to permanently ban some of Chattanooga's most violent gang members from meeting in East Lake is now in the hands of a judge.

Police say it's making the area safer.

Chattanooga Police Sgt. Curtis Penney pointed to data Tuesday saying the number of violent crimes reported in East Lake Courts is down.

Penney cited the list below, comparing numbers from 2016 and 2017:

  • Homicides: 100% reduction
    2016: 3
    2017: 0
  • Robbery: 74% reduction
    2016: 31
    2017: 8
  • Aggravated Assault: 15% reduction
    2016: 72
    2017: 61
  • Burglary: 27% reduction
    2016: 73
    2017: 53
  • Vandalism: 18% reduction
    2016: 122
    2017: 99
  • Weapons Violations: 47% reduction
    2016: 19
    2017: 10
  • Shots Fired Calls: 56% reduction
    2016: 181
    2017: 78

"People stopped causing crimes in that area. People named on the gang injunction stopped hanging out in that area and causing crimes," Chief Felix Vess who oversees the police department of the Chattanooga Housing Authority.

He credits the East Lake Safety Zone for the decrease and wants a judge to make the zone permanent.

Right now, a temporary court order prohibits a list of about two dozen validated gang members from meeting or carrying guns in that area.

A group of defense attorneys, who represent some of the gang members on the list, say the injunction is unconstitutional and question its effectiveness.

"Has anyone actually been arrested under this injunction?" Attorney Chrissy Mincy asked in court Tuesday.

"They have not," Penney testified.

"No specific steps that they take at the police department to enforce this injunction?" Mincy asked.

"There's been no enforcement action in regards to this injunction," Penney replied.

Prosecutors say there have not been any arrests because violent behavior stopped after word of the injunction spread.

They say it's the duty of officers to track gang activity under federal regulations.

"That information has to be gathered so there's obviously a duty for it to be gathered which is required under the statute," District Attorney Neal Pinkston told a judge Tuesday.

Vess believes the move is a step in the right direction and improves the quality of life for those who live in East Lake Courts.

"You see the changes that are happening. Fewer people are hanging out on 4th Avenue and you see more kids and children playing," he said.

A judge will decide whether or not to make the East Lake Safety Zone permanent on July 30.