Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, August 5, 2022

Kelly administration releases roadmap to end gun violence in Chattanooga

The Kelly administration says its newly release Roadmap to End Gun Violence in Chattanooga is designed to both stop the cycle of gun violence and prevent it from returning.

The plan includes a series of community engagement sessions to review the roadmap, gather input and coordinate action across the city.

“Gun violence has become an epidemic in Chattanooga and across the country, and its effects are felt far beyond the group of people immediately involved,” says Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly. “This is a problem Chattanooga has been struggling with every summer for many years now, and our children are hurting, families are grieving and people are fearful and frustrated. We must unite and take action.”

The roadmap includes immediate actions as well as long-term investments Kelly says are designed to both stop the current cycle of violence on city streets and address the deep-rooted issues that cause cultures of violence to emerge.

The model of intervention and prevention – intervening to stop the current cycle of violence and investing in long-term initiatives to prevent it from returning – serves as the foundation of the roadmap.

Many of the actions are already underway. For example, the Chattanooga Police Department’s Focused Deterrence Initiative, which has provided an enhanced police presence on weekends in areas of town that statistically have been experiencing a spike in crime, was launched June 10 and has resulted in 30 arrests and the seizure of 39 illegal guns.

At the same time, the roadmap’s long-term investments will address the root causes of gun violence, including lack of opportunity and lack of access to resources and support, especially among youth and families in traditionally underserved neighborhoods.

“This roadmap is not just a plan for the future. Our city will not tolerate people who believe they’re beyond the law, and I’m committed to ensuring those who commit acts of violence are held accountable,” says Kelly. “Thanks to the hard work of the Chattanooga Police Department and our state and federal partners, suspects have been arrested in both of the mass shootings that occurred at the beginning of the summer, and countless other potentially violent situations have been stopped before shots could be fired.

“But ultimately, gun violence is not just a law enforcement issue, it’s a public health issue and a community issue, which is why our roadmap also includes long-term prevention initiatives to help our most vulnerable residents long before they ever feel the need to pick up a gun.”

The Chattanooga City Council has already approved the use of $3.7 million in American Rescue Plan funds for additional community-rooted public safety and youth engagement program, the mayor notes.

“While it can take years to see citywide transformation, I’m confident we can come together as a community to end our epidemic of violence.”

To ensure the actions in the roadmap are coordinated across city departments and with the community, Kelly has appointed Chris Sands, director of community engagement for the City of Chattanooga, as the interim executive director of community safety and gun violence prevention.

With a background in leadership studies, Sands has experience in community interventions, team building and community coalition building in the nonprofit, faith and private sectors.

Sands will guide the implementation of the roadmap and lead ongoing engagement and collaboration with the community, coordinating city- and community-wide action in a common cause.

“Through my years of service working with some of Chattanooga’s most vulnerable families, I’ve seen firsthand how gun violence can rip families and communities apart,” says Sands. “We must come together as Chattanoogans to put a stop to this senseless and tragic violence.”

Last week, the city kicked off a new community engagement series to invite input on the roadmap and coordinate collaboration on the actions to prevent gun violence in the long term, including youth mentorship initiatives and wraparound services to support vulnerable families. The meetings will allow the city and participating organizations to discuss best practices, greatest needs and ways to collaborate.

“Through focused deterrence efforts, our enhanced presence on the streets and ongoing engagement with state and federal partners, we’re doing everything possible to keep illegal guns off the streets and out of the wrong hands,” says Chattanooga Police Chief Celeste Murphy. “While these actions are critical to stopping violent crime, we also have to support our young people and provide them with opportunity in the long run, and that’s where partnership with the community becomes essential.”

The first community meeting was held Monday, July 25, and focused on an overview of the roadmap with an opportunity for participants to provide structured feedback. Future meetings will be broken out by action area for more focused discussion. Individuals and organizations can participate in future sessions by registering at cha.city/roadmapsessions.

“The roadmap is meant to be a framework, not a final plan. It’s a starting point for our partners and the community to review, refine and expand upon,” says Dr. Mary Lambert, director of the city’s Office of Community Health and Safety. “Many of our community partners are already working every day to establish trusted relationships with the young people and families we’re trying to reach - which is why a community-wide approach is vital. We must come together in common cause to truly end this public health crisis.”

The full Roadmap to End Gun Violence in Chattanooga is available at cha.city/roadmap.

Source: City of Chattanooga