Chattanooga police report reduced theft, more DUIs in first month of 2023

Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Police vehicles block a section of Georgia Avenue at the crosswalk near the Hamilton County Courthouse on Jan. 9 after a vehicle hit two pedestrians. Ten pedestrians were hit by cars in Chattanooga in January, police said, and one died.

In the first month of 2023, Chattanooga police reported a spike in DUIs, drug offenses and pedestrians being hit by cars, while theft and robbery declined, according to department data.

Sixty-five instances of intoxicated driving were reported to the Chattanooga Police Department in January, compared to 42 in the first month of 2022.

Drug offenses also increased by 35% compared to the first month of last year, data shows, and weapons offenses rose by 17%, with 108 reported in January.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga police chief talks speeding, tech and crime with Hixson residents)

"Since these are based on only a month of data, the percentage increases appear large," Assistant Chief Jerri Sutton said in an email Wednesday. "However, as more months of data are added, these numbers will even out."

Officers made arrests in two separate carjackings, both involving three juvenile boys, on Jan. 26 and 28, Assistant Chief Harry Sommers said at a media briefing Wednesday. The youngest person involved was 13, police said.

"Both of them ended up wrecking their cars and were arrested by neighborhood patrol," Sommers said.

District Attorney Coty Wamp is set to make an announcement related to the carjackings, and speak about juvenile crime in general, on Friday.

Drivers hit 10 pedestrians last month, killing one, according to department data. Since January 2022, Chattanooga police received 143 reports of pedestrians being hit, including seven who died.

(READ MORE: Police investigating suspected homicide in North Chattanooga)

On Jan. 9, two older adults were hit by a car outside the Hamilton County Courthouse on Georgia Avenue and taken to a hospital with unknown injuries. On Jan. 18, police confirmed one person died after being hit by a driver on Interstate 24. Last week, another pedestrian was hit and injured on East Main Street, though police determined the driver had the right of way at the time of the collision.

"We're attributing some of that to drivers not paying full attention to the driving task, and some of that has been pedestrians walking out in front of cars as well," Assistant Chief Glenn Scruggs said Wednesday.

A bicyclist was also hit and killed while riding through the intersection of East 32nd Street and Clio Avenue on Jan. 25, Sommers said. That incident, a hit-and-run, is still under investigation.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga police: Bicyclist dies after hit-and-run Wednesday afternoon)

The department may install more cameras on Chattanooga streets in the near future, Chief Celeste Murphy said Wednesday.

North Chattanooga residents may also expect more patrol cars on the roads after the department received multiple complaints about speeding and racing on the city's North Shore.

Though January saw only a third of the number of robberies reported in January 2022, and 30 fewer burglaries, police asked the public for help in an investigation into a string of burglaries at a Hixson storage facility. In the past 12 months, Sutton said, 16 incidents -- mostly burglaries -- have been reported at the KO Storage, according to the department.

"There's a sense that the person that's breaking into it, it's the same folks, or at least the same group of people," Scruggs said Wednesday.

Contact Ellen Gerst at or 423-757-6319.