Chattanooga police add officers to downtown, Coolidge to address problems with some teens

Chattanooga police add officers to downtown, Coolidge to address problems with some teens

June 13th, 2013 by Beth Burger in Local Regional News

Coolidge Park in Chattanooga

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

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Chattanooga police have augmented the number of officers working in the downtown and Coolidge Park area on weekends to address problems with some teens frequenting the area during the summer.

Ten extra patrol officers are working in addition to the Bravo team of officers who normally patrol the area, said Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd.

"Unfortunately, this is an extra expense that has been covered with overtime money," he said. "We hope when the 20 new officers complete the Field Training Program this summer it will alleviate some of the added expense."

Historically, some groups of teens have been involved in violence in the downtown area.

"We do see an increase in problems during the summer due to the fact young people are out of school and visit the downtown area more frequently," Dodd said. "Not all of the visiting young people create problems, but it does increase our efforts in maintaining business as usual in these areas with the increase in crowds. ... We also have some that show up for nothing other than to start fights and create chaos."

Just last week, police had to respond to a fight between juveniles on Market Street outside Riverbend on Saturday night. A source said the fight started between a couple of gang members but dissipated by the time officers arrived.

"For some reason some young people feel the need to act out, argue and fight once they get together in a crowd situation instead of just enjoying the venue or event they originally gathered for," Dodd said.

Last year, officers received complaints from downtown businesses of teens congregating in large groups and causing disruptions. Some of the teens threw rocks when officers responded.

The result was adding more officers.

So far, Dodd said he has not received complaints this year.

In March 2011, shots were fired in Coolidge Park after about 300 youths used social media to meet. No one was injured.

Three adults and two juveniles were injured during a shooting at the park in March 2010.

The city put into an effect a curfew for teens in the park from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. unless they are with an adult. Citywide the curfew for teens is 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends.

Paul Smith, who will become the city's public safety coordinator on June 28, said the issue of teens causing disruptions during the summer is not unique to Chattanooga.

"We have to find ways to provide more opportunities for youth to be engaged constructively by community services and summer programs in our schools and other facilities," he said.

"Our community would do well to develop and support stronger neighborhood associations and allow their collective input to create a cohesive plan that will bring a keen awareness to these issues and pull community, churches and other neighborhood resources together to develop proactive measures to curtail this issue," he said.

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@times freepress.com or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abbruger.