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Chattanooga Violence Initiative Showing Results
UPDATED: 6:35 PM EDT
One month in and Chattanooga's new way of policing seems as if it's off to a good start. City and community leaders said Friday that through the violence reduction initiative, which targets gang-related shootings, the people creating that violence are reaching out for help.

"If you want to sell dope, you want to deal dope, go right ahead. If you get caught doing that, you're going to prison. You're good with that right?" said Richard Bennett, the founder of A Better Tomorrow, an outreach organization for 15 years. "But if you choose this track, I promise I'll never lie to you, I'll respect you and I'll help you wholeheartedly that way."

Bennett's organization is one of several helping men identified as Chattanooga's root of gang violence. Officials said nearly 20 want help so far, and community leaders helped a four to five of them get entry-level jobs. The city of Chattanooga is tapping Bennett's resources to help empower and mentor.

Those are small results for an all-call demanding the violence stop March 20. Law enforcement sent out letters to dozens of people calling for them to stop the shootings or face the consequences.

"We also let them know that the next one that puts a body on the ground, law enforcement will come after them with everything they have. But we also offer outreach and support," said Paul Smith, the safety coordinator of Chattanooga. "So far, it's a small victory, a very small success. We have a long way to go. We're just a month into the process."

But first, those labeled "at-risk" must decide who they are and want to be.

"In their short term goals, a job was number one, in the sense that they had bills, they had to pay, they had child support, things of this nature. So, we knew we had to give them some economic understanding and (cash) flow coming in," said Bennett, who noted that the real challenge is three months from now. "Truthfully, some of these men are making $1,500 to $2,000 a week in illegal money. We can't supplement that income. So, we explained to them that there has to be a little suffering involved."

Since mid-March when the plan rolled out, there have been three gang-related shootings. If you received a letter and want to get help, call (423) 485-1012 for help.

By Briona Arradondo

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