published Monday, August 30th, 2010

Chattanooga crime rate in top 20, report

PDF: The full Ochs Center 2010 report

Crime definitions

Aggravated assault: An attack usually accompanied by the use of a weapon or means likely to cause death or serious bodily harm.

Robbery: Taking of anything of value from a person by force or threat of force/violence or by putting the victim in fear.

Burglary: Entering a structure illegally to commit a felony or theft.

Larceny-theft: Taking property of another person.

Source: FBI

Report definition

The State of Chattanooga Region Report 2010 was compiled by the staff of the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies. The center has compiled such reports every two years since 2006 for the Chattanooga metropolitan statistical area, which includes Hamilton, Marion and Sequatchie counties in Tennessee and Dade, Walker and Catoosa counties in Georgia. Crime data is collected through the annual FBI uniform crime report, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Tennessee Incident Based Reporting System, Chattanooga Police Department, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office and the Tennessee Department of Correction and Georgia Department of Corrections.

An increase in robberies and burglaries has pushed Chattanooga’s crime rate higher than that of two of the most dangerous cities in America — Detroit and Atlanta.

Chattanooga ranked 11th among the top 20 for the highest crime rates among U.S. cities with a population of 100,000 or more, according to the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies.

The center has gathered state and federal crime data since 2005 for cities and counties in Chattanooga’s metropolitan statistical area. This is the third such report by the center on crime, which publishes every two years since 2006.

But some local law enforcement leaders question comparisons in the study.

“I certainly don’t believe that Chattanooga is more dangerous or violent than Atlanta,” said Chattanooga police Chief Bobby Dodd.

The chief questioned the reporting of other cities and stood by the accuracy of Chattanooga’s reports.

Crime statistics given to the FBI are supposed to follow standardized reporting procedures nationwide and the Ochs Center must trust that those numbers are accurate, said David Eichenthal, center president and CEO.

But the report is meant to be more than just a dry recitation of statistics, he said.

“We try to go beyond the basic reporting of numbers and try to answer a series of questions about those numbers that will hopefully prompt policymakers and the press to ask more questions,” Eichenthal said.

Trouble spots

Three subregions within Chattanooga — Amnicola/East Chattanooga, Dupont/Murray Hills and Woodmore/Dalewood communities — had the highest increases in all crime categories except drug offenses from 2005 to 2009.

Robberies doubled in Amnicola/East Chattanooga, nearly tripled in Woodmore/Dalewood and increased sixfold in Dupont/Murray Hills, according to the report. The Woodmore area had 31 reported robberies in 2005 and 91 in 2009.

Alice Keith is vice president of the Woodmore Manor Neighborhood Association and has lived in the community for 30 years. She said crime has worsened in her area.

For years, schools and churches offered programs and residents met regularly with police, fire and school leaders to tackle budding social problems, she said. But less money for programs and fewer youth role models have left younger residents with little to occupy their time.

“What we see is that there are a lot of young people in this area that don’t have jobs,” Keith said. “There are no programs in the area for young people to do anything but walk our streets.”

Coordinated efforts

City Councilman Russell Gilbert, who represents the Woodmore/Dalewood area, said working on crime problems in his area and across the city will take coordination between communities, government, police and courts.

Repeat offenders are a major concern, he said. In four subregions — Amnicola/East Chattanooga, Ridgedale/Oak Grove/Clifton Hills and Bushtown/Highland Park — one out of 50 males has returned from prison within the last two years, according to the report.

Those men “are continuing to make the same mistake over and over again,” Gilbert said. “These people [are the ones] we need to stress to the law to keep them in jail.”

Dodd, appointed police chief in July, said changes in demographics in some neighborhoods, coupled with a down economy since 2008, have contributed to crime spikes in some areas.

Some older people have retired and moved away, renting out their homes, he said. And jobless people may be pushed into crime.

Property crime

Among the 11 benchmark cities on the Ochs report, Chattanooga had the highest property crime rate.

Eichenthal said national data show that property crime didn’t go up nationally during the recession and some cities with higher poverty rates than Chattanooga had lower property crime rates.

Dodd disagreed that the recession wasn’t a major factor in property crime.

Educating residents how better to protect themselves — not leaving valuables in the open such as lawn mowers in yards or electronics visible in cars, for instance — could help cut down on property crime, Dodd said.

“In 23 years in law enforcement I’ve never worked a case where a trunk was broken into,” he said.

Chattanooga police use a crime-mapping system to target crime hot-spots. The chief said that program, along with the doubling the crime suppression unit to 10 officers and linking that unit with a similar one in the sheriff’s office, will help police battle crime concentrations.

Continue reading by following these links to related stories:

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Article: Education spending gap persists statewide

Article: Report says Ooltewah, Harrison Bay county’s fastest-growing areas

about Todd South...

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 ...

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Salsa said...

Two years without a police academy hasn't done anything to help this situation either.

August 30, 2010 at 12:12 a.m.
catfancier53 said...

Our city is at least 50 officers short of meeting even a MINIMAL standard of protection for Chattanooga citizens.

Chattanooga has become a war zone and I don't go out at night any more. I do NOT feel safe here. Gangs are rampant. Failure to put adequate monies into crime protection, education, and infrastructure will discourage industries from coming here and encourage those who are here to take their business elsewhere.

August 30, 2010 at 9:56 a.m.
bluedagger said...

The police department can only do so much. Sure, they are very short; they are DANGEROUSLY low on rank-and-file numbers. However, whatever happened to "it takes a village to raise a child"? The police department can only go so far in keeping order. When parents fail on their job, they allow the law to raise their children. Until we get it into these parent's liberal, Godless, and insufficient brains that they must do their part in rearing their children, our society (more specificilly our local community) will not ever be better.

On a related note, I pray daily for our Chattanooga Police Officers that they can go home to their families at night time. I have been told that in the East Chattanooga/Bushtown/Amnicola Hwy area, in order to fill completely 2nd shift, they have to have something like 12 officers staffed (to account for off days, etc). I spoke with an officer who told me that they only have 5 staffed on 2nd shift. That is a safety issue for these men and women in blue. They too have families that they like to go home to, many of them with children. To have such short staffing is dangerous not only for the community, but also for the community servants. Please pray for them.

August 30, 2010 at 11:24 a.m.
Eric said...

All of the problems stem from the liberals who insist on giving handouts to all of the dead beats instead of putting money into more law enforcement and jails. The liberals insist on letting criminals out of jail and then want to restrict law abiding residents from having weapons to defend ourselves. If the thugs who are breaking into our cars and stealing our property could be shot on-site, you can bet crime would go down.

August 30, 2010 at 11:51 a.m.
harrystatel said...

Crime-fighting Mascot Killed in Chattanooga

Harry Statel

August 30, 2010 at 2:39 p.m.
chioK_V said...

What should concern everyone is how these so called statistics will be use? Will they be usd as an excuse to further divide and segregate? Will they be used as an excuse to incarcerate a select group? Will they be used to target certain communities? Preferrably poor, minority? Will these statistics be used to justify gun-ho police and equally gun-ho citizens shooting first and forgetting about asking any questions later altogether?

From past indicators, these type statistics are rarely used as a tool for good. They're more often than not used as a means to oppress, abuse, justify racial profiling and a host of other ills that do more harm than good.

Remember still, these are the very same conditions that led Germany into a Holocaust. A certain segment of the population was blamed for all the ills of Germany. They were blamed for the crime rates, economy. They were considered a "dredge" on society, which led to a "Finall Solution." That solution being the Holocaust. Think People! Think!

August 30, 2010 at 3:17 p.m.
xyzyra said...

For a black man, Russel Gilbert doesn't seem too bright or know much about his own history. I can't see how a black man can suggest longer prison terms as a solution to their community ills. Overly incarceration of primarily black males is what has actually led to more crime, broken families and the further deterioration of these communities. Allowing outsiders with no ties to the community and certainly no love for the people to enter into these communities without any restraints have led even more to the decimation of these communities. Mr. Gilbert should know this. As long as the black community allow others to come in on the pretense of solving their issues, they will always remain at a standstill and regressing backwards.

August 30, 2010 at 4:22 p.m.
begoniablu said...

Chattanooga's Crime rate is in the top 10% in the country - that's the real statistic. How does that fit into our Renaissance plan? There are so many things I really love about this city but this is one dark issue that makes me consider living elsewhere. I certainly wish there was more media attention and pressure for a solution. As a single mom living within the city limits....I don't feel safe. My house has been broken into 3 times - once when I was home with my was terrifying. I pay higher premiums on my home owners insurance. I pay double taxes living within the city limits and yet...I get more attention driving 10 miles over the speed limit on MLK with a stupid 25 mph posted speed limit on my way to WORK from our police department then I've ever received when I was the victim of a real crime. Our Police Department needs to remember its primary purpose - its NOT to generate revenue - its to protect its citizens from crime. Just because its "just" a property crime, doesn't mean that it won't be a rape or violent assault next time. Its time the people we pay to keep us safe start doing their jobs.

April 9, 2011 at 5:29 p.m.
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