Chattanooga Pastor Shares VRI Call-In Experience
Thursday night, the Chattanooga Police Department held its 9th Violence Reduction Initiative call-in.
At those VRI meetings, the media isn't allowed to take pictures, shoot video or record audio. Even our cell phones had to be turned off, for confidentiality reasons.
It's an eye-opening experience for gang members and for those community members invited to come watch.
The VRI is an initiative that began in 2013, with the first call-in in spring 20-14.
Thursday, 30 men attended the 9th call-in at Olivet Baptist Church.
"I didn't see them as just gang affiliated guys. I didn't see them as that. I saw them as human beings," said Ron King.
King is also the pastor at Inner Peace. He spoke to the men about his past experiences.
"The seat that they were sitting in is a seat that I feel like I've been in before," he added.
King grew up in Alton Park.
He says it wasn't until he was 20 years old that he realized he needed to make some changes in his life.
"When my son came into the world, you know, I felt like I had something that I needed to strive for. I didn't want him to have to grow up in the same environment that I grew up in. So, I wanted to show him something different," King added.
King says that's why he got a job and why he's now sharing his story because he's sick of the violence.
King, Chief Fletcher and Mayor Berke all had strong words about the 71-year-old man, shot and killed while in his bed Wednesday night.
"When an innocent man in his home is killed, you know, and kids are seeing what's going on it's a big problem in our city," King said.
But a problem, King says, people can change if they want to.
"I've been there. God brought me out. He can bring them out, too," he said.
Since the call-in's began in 2014 - 191 men and women have participated.
Not counting Thursday, here's the most recent breakdown of the effectiveness of the call-in's.
Out of 161 participants, 20 were arrested for serious offenses such as homicide, robbery, or burglary.
15 have been arrested for gun possessions, and 13 domestic violence arrests have been made.
King says many of the men came up to him last night asking for his contact information for getting help in the future.
So far, he hasn't gotten any calls.