Dalton, Ga., police meet with residents

Dalton, Ga., police meet with residents

February 28th, 2012 by Joy Lukachick Smith in News

Dalton Police Chief Jason Parker

Photo by Gillian Bolsover

DALTON, Ga. -- Dalton police outlined mounting concerns such as gang activity and property crime and encouraged more neighborhood involvement at a communitywide meeting Monday night.

In Dalton and Whitfield County, there are about 100 documented gang members, Dalton Police Detective Ron Kilgore said.

"Considering the population, that is a concern," Dalton Police Chief Jason Parker said.

Dalton detectives, who are also with the Conasauga Safe Street Task Force, outlined ways for residents to become involved in measures to reduce gang activity.

One of the most popular gang activities in Dalton isn't violent crimes, but damaging property by "tagging," Detective Chris Tucker, a member of the local task force, told a group of about 40 residents. Tagging is using spray paint to mark territory.

Parents should be able to pick up on early signs of gang activity, like drawing gang signs in school notebooks, Tucker said.

This was the police department's first citywide meeting at the Dalton Community Center and it drew a larger crowd than in the past when the department held meetings at City Hall.

"It's encouraging to have people here," Parker said.

Police also told residents about a police effort called adopt a gang member.

This program encourages police to check on a suspected or known gang member and form a relationship with the family, Kilgore said. Many of the officers are assigned a member to form a relationship with, he said. The department has had some success with the program, he said.

Another issue police told residents about was an increase in 2011 in what the FBI calls Part 1 crimes, which include violent offenses. The increase is mainly in thefts and aggravated assault, Parker said.

About 1,443 Part 1 crimes were reported in 2011, compared with 1,336 in 2010. But crime is still down compared with 10 years ago when 2,233 Part 1 crimes were reported.

The division of the city into three districts and the assignment of every officer on the force to patrol a specific area help prevent crime, Parker said.

But without help from the community, officers don't know all the pressing problems, he said.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.