Representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General recently visited the Chattanooga Housing Authority’s public safety division.
Housing authority officials said personnel from HUD’s office of investigations were here to form a partnership with the authority and its public safety division.
“We are discussing a future partnership on how to do background checks,” said Eddie Holmes, chairman of the housing authority’s board.
Mr. Holmes said he couldn’t go into detail because the partnership still is developing.
However, some public housing residents have said the authority’s public safety officers are overly aggressive, harassing them and their friends. They have asked HUD to investigate.
“You can’t have company at your house,” said Sheila Mitchell, an East Lake Courts resident. “They see one or two people and they think somebody is selling drugs. Slave times are over, and we’re not in jail.”
According to its Web site, the Office of Inspector General’s job is to conduct “independent and objective audits, investigations and other activities” for HUD. One of its goals is to help HUD programs run efficiently and effectively, but it also tries to find and stop “waste, fraud and abuse” within HUD, the Web site states.
CHA Chief of Police Felix Vess said he met with OIG Inspector Michael White about four weeks ago, but he would say only that the meeting was cordial and that “they just wanted to come and introduce themselves.”
Mr. White, who is with the OIG office in Knoxville, could not be reached for comment.
Chief Vess has said about 1,000 to 1,300 people have been put on the housing authority’s trespassing list in the past decade. Only about 10 percent of those people are related to people who live in public housing, and people aren’t put on the list unless they have committed a crime, he said.
He also said that about 75 percent of the crime in public housing sites is committed by people who do not live there.
But some public housing residents say the public safety division is overstepping its bounds.
In 2006, East Lake resident Dorothy Roberts led a resident petition to ask HUD to investigate what residents called police harassment. East Lake Courts residents and resident leaders at College Hill Courts also have complained of harassment and called for an investigation this year.
Ms. Mitchell said police have asked for her identification and poured out her beer while she was sitting on her own porch.
“There needs to be something done about the harassment,” she said.
Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...