Arrests were up last year throughout Southeast Tennessee, although the numbers of reported crimes fluctuated, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s annual crime data report shows.
Some sheriffs said the TBI report is a good indicator of growth and crime trends, while others argue the report skews data.
Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble touted his department’s clearance rate in the TBI report as “a phenomenal success.” The department cleared nearly 48 percent of cases, up from about 45 percent the year before.
This is also the first year the Bradley County Sheriff’s Department has made more than 3,000 arrests. Reported crimes were also up about 13 percent in the county of 91,000 people.
“With the explosive growth we have experienced in Bradley, some increase in crime rates (is) to be expected,” Sheriff Gobble said in a statement. “As the population of Bradley County continues to increase, the number of calls requiring a law enforcement response will continue to climb.”
ARRESTS IN 2007
* Bradley: 3,608
* Marion: 1,002
* McMinn: 1,657
* Meigs: 604
* Polk: 506
* Rhea: 1,227
* Sequatchie: 435
Source: TBI “Crime in Tennessee 2007”
The TBI report also showed a record year for arrests in Marion County, which surpassed 1,000 arrests for the first time. Crime report data for the county is incomplete in the 2007 TBI report, but the county has averaged between 700 and 800 incidents in past years.
“I think it means our officers our out doing a good job. Crime is never going to go down. It’s always going to edge, and I’m sure that plays a part in it also,” Marion County Sheriff Ronnie “Bo” Burnett said.
Marion County added a new officer last year, and Sheriff Burnett hopes another deputy can be hired this year to handle the growing workload.
“One officer you wouldn’t think is much, but it really helps in a smaller county,” Sheriff Burnett said.
Some sheriffs said the annual TBI report unfairly casts their departments in a bad light.
McMinn County has a 26 percent clearance rate of crimes, and two years ago, had less than a 22 percent clearance rate. McMinn County Sheriff Steve Frisbie said the numbers can be deceiving because of the way the data is calculated.
Rhea County Sheriff Mike Neal agreed. His county’s crime clearance rate dropped about 6 percent to 31 percent this year.
“If someone’s house is broken into and you got back everything but one item that was stolen, and you arrested the party that stole them, you still wouldn’t even be able to count that as solved because you didn’t get it 100 percent,” Sheriff Neal said. “The accuracy is not there in my opinion.”
All law enforcement agencies in the state are required to report crime statistics to the TBI. This year, the state’s crime rate rose just over 1 percent to 633,000 offenses.
More than half were property crimes such as theft. Assault cases, narcotics and theft were also represented the largest numbers of reported crimes in Southeast Tennessee.