Marion County Sheriff Bo Burnett and South Pittsburg, Tenn., Police Chief Dale Higdon both said a recently released report on crime in the Chattanooga area mirrors what they’ve seen in their communities.
“It’s both, more (crimes) are happening and more people are reporting them,” Chief Higdon said of the report’s numbers showing property crimes in South Pittsburg nearly doubling from 70 in 2003 to 133 in 2007.
The State of Chattanooga Region Report conducted by the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies is the fourth in a seven-part series analyzing different areas of the connected communities.
The report looks at the Chattanooga Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Hamilton, Marion and Sequatchie counties in Tennessee and Dade, Walker and Catoosa counties in Georgia.
David Eichenthal, president and CEO of the Ochs Center, has said that the goal of the reports is to provide information to law enforcement officials and community leaders to create crime-reduction solutions.
The report compared 2003 crime statistics with 2007 numbers reported to the agency’s home-state uniform crime report numbers.
Chief Higdon, who took over as head of the department in November, he said he is working on plans to combat crime increases.
He estimated that three-fourths of crime is from nonresidents either from neighboring Hamilton County or Alabama. South Pittsburg is a crossroads for those traveling between Hamilton County and Alabama, he said.
Sheriff Burnett said the increase in property crime is directly related to drug activity and the slow economy.
He has two of his four detectives working on property crimes. One detective is a recent hire and he already has a full load of property crime cases.
He said some people commit crimes in other counties, but much rural crime is homegrown.
“People are creatures of habit,” he said. “They’re going to break into a house in a neighborhood they’re familiar with more than going somewhere else.”
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...