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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Department of Justice

United States Attorney James R. Dedrick Eastern District of Tennessee


BUILDING SAFE COMMUNITIES SUMMIT HELD IN CHATTANOOGA TENNESSEE

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn – Approximately 300 individuals attended a day-long seminar entitled Building Safe Communities at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga today. This summit, co-sponsored by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), University of Tennessee Chattanooga, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, Chattanooga Police Department, Hamilton County School System, Chattanooga Safe Policies Committee, Chattanooga Office of Multicultural Affairs and the University of Tennessee Law Enforcement Innovation Center (LEIC), was held to bring together local citizens, including youth, community groups, elected officials, law enforcement, service providers, spiritual leaders and business leaders to identify and address gang and truancy issues in Hamilton County.

According to the Office of Juvenile Justice Programs (OJJDP), since the early 2000s, not only has every large city (with a population over 100,000) in the United States experienced gang problems in some form or another, but so have a majority of suburban counties and a sizeable number of smaller cities and rural counties. The first step for a community to do something meaningful to successfully combat gang issues is to first recognize the presence of gangs in their community.

The agenda for today's summit included presentations by the Hamilton County School Superintendent, Hamilton County Juvenile Judge, Chattanooga Police Department and Hamilton County Sheriff's Department Officers, representatives from the University of Chattanooga, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee as well as a victim of gang violence. Breakout sessions with like disciplines: Law Enforcement/Prosecution; Community & Spiritual Leaders, Elected Officials and Business Leaders; School System Employees; and Students, were held to discuss their views and opinions on the current situation in Hamilton County.

The summit concluded with breakout "Call to Action" workshops in which all disciplines were challenged to develop ideas and follow through with a plan of action for their own communities.

United States Attorney Russ Dedrick praised the work of the law enforcement agencies and leadership in Hamilton County and Chattanooga for their dedication to making Chattanooga and its suburbs a safer place to live. Dedrick noted that during the past three years local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, the District Attorney, and the United States Attorney have conducted several intelligence meetings to identify gang and serious offenders in the region. These efforts now continue on a routine basis with monthly meetings between the regional agencies.

Two, five-day, law enforcement gang training sessions were provided by PSN grants to train these agencies on techniques for gang identification, investigations, and intelligence gathering. A new gang intelligence data base was developed and implemented in coordination with the Tennessee Fusion Center operated by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and the Department of Safety, which is now used in the Hamilton County and surrounding counties in east Tennessee.

The community leadership met last year and decided to form a Hamilton County/Chattanooga Safe Policies Committee to coordinate efforts directed toward violent crime and gang activity associated with the school system, juvenile and adult justice issues, and the coordination of non-profit organizations in these matters. Key education leaders, law enforcement chiefs, prosecutors, judges, and other community leaders serve on this committee. A new Family Justice planning committee is in the formative phases in the development of a new Family Justice Center for the Chattanooga region.

Today’s summit addresses Building Safer Communities. Over 300 attendees consisting of students, faculty members, and education leaders, as well as law enforcement professionals, the District Attorneys office, judges, mayors, and community representatives will meet in small groups to come up with ideas and suggestions for future action to address violence and gang activities in the schools and communities in the Chattanooga Region. Representatives from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, Hamilton County School System, Chattanooga Police Department, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department, and the United States Attorney’s Law Enforcement Coordinator, Sharry Dedman-Beard, have played a key leadership roles in the coordination and facilitation of the meeting.

United States Attorney Russ Dedrick presented to the attendees a new training video, The Gang Thang: Choose Not to Lose, produced with PSN grant funding by the University of Tennessee, be used in late elementary and junior high schools to educate students about dangers of association with gangs and the harmful effects such activity can have on these young lives. Dedrick noted that this video will be distributed across Tennessee for use in all of Tennessee’s school systems. This is just one example of what we can do to combat violence in our neighborhoods and schools. “I hope we generate many more ideas and suggestions coming from our students and community leaders as we team up to join the fight against violence and gang activity in our communities to provide safe communities for our young people and the citizens we serve,” Dedrick said.

“ The only way we can be successful in our efforts in Building Safe Communities is through the partnerships that we form with Citizens, Businesses, Schools, Churches, and Local, State and Federal Government Agencies. We must all work together toward the same goals for the same purpose, which is making our Communities safe for all,” said Chief Freeman Cooper, Chattanooga Police Department.

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