|An average day in Chattanooga -- police searching for black criminals|
And yes, gangs are fed by poverty. In communities where few have jobs, learning is an uphill battle because the youngsters have less extras to ready them for the first grade. That can become a generational treadmill of more poverty and future learning problems -- and of course future gang culture.
Finally, after years of waving off an emerging Chattanooga gang problem as "wanna-bes" the city and its residents are waking up to see the entrenched gang culture here.
In April, after "bloody March," gang leaders themselves saw the problem growing out of hand and arranged a truce.
"Bloody March" was the gang leaders' description for a spate of daily shootings described as retaliations following violence after the death of a Howard High student who was shot in a vacant house a few blocks from campus. Between March 5 and March 25, police worked 14 shootings in which someone was killed or injured.
The truce worked for a while. But now Chattanooga is aiming to -- and must -- bolster the effort with relationships, jobs and other efforts.
And the police effort is increasing, too. The city is expending overtime to staff downtown and North Shore's Coolidge Park with 10 extra officers all summer.
A shooting every third day is absurd for a city like Chattanooga.
It's time to look at the patterns and address the root issues.
It's time to stop the shooting.
Ken Chilton, president of the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies, said Chattanooga lacks a sizable educated black middle class. He said that for every black man with a college degree in the city, there are two without GED certificates.
Compared to other communities across the South, Chattanooga has the highest rate of black men without degrees, he told a room of mostly white men.
"What do we expect from society when you look at some of these neighborhoods ... where the percentage of the population that has a college degree is less than 10 percent, the percentage of participation in the labor force is below 40 to 50 percent," he said. "The percentage of married couple families with children is below 10 percent. There's a lot of socioeconomic factors involved in that in these neighborhoods and what's going on in terms of the opportunity structure and things that foster a good outcome."
Mention the words black on black violence in the inner city and places like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York come to mind but Chattanooga is quickly becoming known for it's fair share of escalating black on black crimes.
The story is usually the same as it involves a disagreement between two black men or a group of African Americans that leads to violence. Some of the victims live.
Others die. No one knows this better than Celeste Woods. Nine years ago, her son Demond was shot to death in an East Chattanooga neighborhood. Woods say's she'll never forget that horrible night.
"The next thing I knew, I was getting a phone call that said Demond had been shot. They asked me to come to the location where it happened. When I arrived, there he was; the rope was taped around and he was laying face down in the street," Woods said.
Demond died on Martin Luther King Jr. Day; A day most Americans celebrate a man who stood for non-violence; A day that now carries more meaning for Woods.
Gang Task Force community outreach coordinator Fred Houser said the level of black on black violence in Chattanooga is at an epidemic level.
"We're seeing so many black children and mid-age black males and older ones that are being murdered as a result of gang violence and other kind of violence," Houser said.
"It affects one of our precious resources; the black male," Houser said when asked about how this type of violence is impacting the African American community.
"My heart bleeds for both sides. Not only the victim but the person doing the shooting," Woods said.
News 12 wanted to why so many African Americans are killing each other and the best way to find out was by talking to a man who is affiliated with the Crips gang. He agreed to talk with News 12 as long as his identity was not revealed for safety reasons.
"Now days you have to go through more to prove yourself as a man and stand your ground as a man. A lot of the times it gets carried away real quick and that's how a lot of this violence and the gun play come about," he said.
He says some neighborhoods in Chattanooga are war zones and during a time of war people get killed.