J. Douglas Overbey, United States attorney, Eastern District of Tennessee, says he is encouraged by a year-over-year reduction in persons shot in Chattanooga and is committed to working to drive down violent crime even further.
The Chattanooga Police Department recently announced crime statistics showing reductions in violent crime from 2017 to 2018. According to the statistics, criminal homicides were down 61 percent, gang member-involved homicides were down 53 percent and non-fatal shootings involving gang members were down 35 percent. Overall, persons shot in Chattanooga, both fatal and non-fatal, were down 27 percent.
“These reduced numbers are due, in part, to the collaborative efforts of local, state and federal law enforcement and state and federal prosecutors,” Overbey says. “Effective violence reduction depends on working in partnership with a wide range of engaged stakeholders.”
While these numbers are encouraging, Overby cautions against becoming complacent. “The violent crime rate is still too high,” he says. “However, local, state and federal resources, working in partnership to address the drivers of violent crime in our communities, will continue to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.”
Last fall, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the expansion of Project Safe Neighborhoods, which encourages U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to work with the communities they serve to develop customized crime reduction strategies.
“The PSN program has always been strong in this district and will continue to thrive during this reinvigoration of our crime reduction strategy,” Overbey says.
Recently, the Eastern District of Tennessee formed a PSN Task Force consisting of representatives from local, state and federal law enforcement across the district.
Led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the PSN Task Force includes representatives from the Chattanooga, Knoxville and Greeneville police departments, the First, Second, Sixth and Eleventh District attorney’s offices, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Tennessee Probation and Parole, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Marshals Service, Homeland Security and the U.S. Probation Office.
“The plan is to attack the violent crime problem by identifying significant offenders and targeting them for either federal or state prosecution,” Overbey says. “By using the most effective tools and techniques, we target the offenders for prosecution in the jurisdiction that can provide the most certain and appropriate sanction.”
One recent example of this was in March 2018, when 31-year old Chris Rayvon Starks of Shelbyville, was sentenced under the Armed Career Criminal Act to serve 180 months in federal prison for unlawfully possessing a firearm and ammunition in violation of the Gun Control Act. His sentence was enhanced based on his three prior convictions for aggravated robbery.
Since 2013, Chattanooga has funded an attorney position that serves as a special assistant U.S. attorney and focuses on violent crime cases to help lower shootings and overall violent crime in Chattanooga.
“Under the reinvigorated PSN program, we hope to maintain this partnership for many years to come,” Overbey adds. “Our goal is to continue working together with all of our law enforcement partners and community leaders and use all available resources to help reduce the violent crime statistics in Chattanooga even further in the coming year.”