Chattanoogans will soon see more Tennessee Highway Patrol cars in the city.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol is making plans to partner with the Chattanooga Police Department to patrol traffic within the city limits and target the city streets where the most accidents happen, THP Col. Tracy Trott said Monday.
The move is new for the highway patrol, which typically focuses on rural areas.
"We're really getting hurt by Chattanooga and fatalities inside the city," Trott said. "We don't usually work inside the city, but we've met with the new chief, and we're hoping to do more joint operations to hopefully stem the fatality rate within the city."
Twenty-nine people have died in traffic accidents this year in Hamilton County, according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol. That's up eight from the number of traffic deaths this time last year.
"It was not a good July for Chattanooga," said Chattanooga police Sgt. David Allen.
He said the more law enforcement officers focusing on traffic safety, the better.
"People will start to slow down when they see the white Crown Vics from the city and the tan Crown Vics from the troopers," he said. "You have more people out there being visible. It will work greatly to our favor."
Chattanooga police patrol officers spent more than 34,000 hours working on traffic-related calls and issued 6,434 traffic citations during 2013, according to a May study of the Chattanooga Police Department by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. That's just over 30 percent of all calls for service.
Trott thinks his troopers can help alleviate some of that workload.
"There are a lot of different demands on [the CPD], including violent crime, property crime, burglaries -- and traffic is on top of all that," he said. "Whereas we're a pretty focused department on traffic safety, and we can devote all our energy and resources to traffic safety."
The Tennessee Highway Patrol started a similar partnership with Memphis about eight months ago, and the joint effort seems to be paying off, Trott said. Statewide, traffic fatalities are down about 5 percent from last year, with 519 people killed so far, compared to 555 this time last year.
THP troopers would work with the Chattanooga police traffic division to figure out which areas of the city to target, Trott said.
"We want to go where we can make the most difference," he said.
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