published Monday, August 30th, 2010

Crime down in Jasper, Sequatchie County; up in South Pittsburg


by Michael Stone

PDF: The full Ochs Center 2010 report

CRIME TOTALS

Total violent and property crime from 2008 per 100,000 population; percentages compared to 2003

Marion County — 338*

Jasper — 78, down 44.7 percent

Kimball — 103, up 21.2 percent

New Hope — 5, up 66.7 percent**

South Pittsburg — 98, up 25.6 percent

Whitwell — 85, down 10.5 percent

Sequatchie County — 207, down 36 percent

Dunlap — 156*

*2003 data unavailable

**Only 3 crimes in 2003

Source: Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies

A study that compared 2003 crime rates to those in 2008 shows good news for the Sequatchie County and Jasper, Tenn., but bad news for South Pittsburg, Tenn.

The study, done by the Chattanooga-based Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies, examined property and violent crimes in Hamilton, Marion and Sequatchie counties in Tenneseee; Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties in Georgia and major cities within those counties.

For accurate comparison among the study areas, all crime data were calculated based on number of offenses per 100,00 population.

“Even though most of the jurisdictions we are examining have populations below 100,000,” the study reads, “the numbers reported as crime rates are for comparison across jurisdiction and years.”

The study notes that “not all crime leads to an arrest (and) not all arrests lead to a prosecution.”

Sequatchie County was the only county analyzed that showed a decrease in crime, Jasper was the city with the largest treduction in crime, and South Pittsburg came in third for the city with the biggest climb in crime.

Sequatchie saw a 36 percent decrease in crime over the five-year period studied. Sheriff Ronnie Hitchcock attributes the drop to “good police work from good employees” and initiatives at the county jail — GED programs, Alcoholics Anonymous classes and computer courses.

“When they leave (the jail),” he said, “they can actually say, ‘I can do this. I don’t have to get out here and commit crimes.’”

Hitchcock said he and co-workers are keeping crime levels down despite being understaffed. He has 13 people patrolling the streets — himself, eight deputies, three investigators and a chief deputy — which is half what it should be, he said.

“The majority of (the 44 people employed by the department) work on the corrections side, and they have to for us to stay state-certified,” he said, referring to the county jail. “Until the economy picks back up, I don’t see us getting any more officers.”

Dunlap, Sequatchie County’s county seat, had the equivalent of 156 violent and property crimes on record for 2008. Data from 2003 was not available for comparison, the study shows.

In bordering Marion County, the rate equaled 338 violent and property crimes reported in 2008. Comparable data from 2003 was not available, the study indicates.

Two cities in Marion County, Whitwell and Jasper, had 10.5 and 44.7 percentage drops in crime, respectively. Jasper Police Chief Tim Graham, who has been in his position for 16 years, attributes his city having the largest drop of all cities analyzed to “good officers” making themselves constantly seen around town.

“You never know what you’re preventing by being visible,” he said. “You may be the hero of the day and go home and not know it.”

To encourage “high visibility,” Graham said he encourages his eight-person staff to drive slowly through neighborhoods and visit local businesses.

South Pittsburg Police Chief Dale Winters has been at his post since November 2009 and has spent the past nine years split between the Kimball and South Pittsburg police forces. He said he’s noticed the crime jumps in those cities, adding they have been “keeping us busy.”

A faltering economy is one reason for the rises, he said.

“People are trying to survive, and they’re going to do what they can to survive,” he said.

He also attributes crime increases to having a small, eight-person staff. That’s why he said his force is asking residents to keep an eye out.

“We’re reaching out to the public ‘cause we can’t be everywhere at the same time,” he said. “Without them, we can’t do it by ourselves.”

Continue reading by following these links to related stories:

Article: Grocery store deserts

Article: Education spending gap persists statewide

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

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