Chattanooga police chief talks speeding, tech and crime with Hixson residents

Staff Photo by Ellen Gerst / Chattanooga Police Chief Celeste Murphy speaks at a Friends of Hixson meeting on Wednesday.

Chattanooga Police Chief Celeste Murphy talked with Hixson residents this week about speeding, technology and changes within her department.

Murphy, who became the city's chief in April, said some of the most common crimes in Hixson are "quality of life" issues including speeding, traffic and noise complaints. There has also been a trend of car thefts and "porch pirates," as Murphy called them, or people stealing packages outside homes.

Hixson doesn't see the same levels of violent or juvenile crime as downtown and isn't as densely populated as some other areas of Chattanooga. Residents at Wednesday's Friends of Hixson meeting said that may be why they hardly see police patrolling in their neighborhood, which many said could help discourage bad driving.

(READ MORE: Reports of most crimes down in Chattanooga in 2022, but not all)

"Usually there's an issue of resources, where do they put them, and of course historically it's been downtown or East Brainerd where you have larger populations," said David Queen, a former president of Friends of Hixson. "Someplace has to give."

At the Wednesday meeting, Murphy answered questions about police drones, speeding hotspots and how to support Chattanooga's youth to stop the rise in juvenile crime.

She also clarified the department's new protocol for responding to car crashes, which stopped sending officers to every reported crash at the start of this year. The change, she said, should help free up officers to respond to more serious situations.

Later Wednesday, at a weekly news briefing, Murphy said most of the Hixson residents' questions aligned with trends the department identified for the area. Murphy also said she plans to work with City Council members to set up more town hall meetings with residents across the city in the future.

"I'm trying to get familiar with, what are some of their concerns," Murphy said. "We're trying our best to -- not just inward, in our department -- have better communication."

(READ MORE: Chattanooga Police Department's new crash response policy brings questions about insurance rates, claims)

Several Hixson residents at Wednesday's meeting said traffic, especially speeding, was their top concern in the area. One asked about speed enforcement on roads including Hixson Pike, Lake Resort Drive and Hamill Road, where he said drivers regularly go 20 or 30 miles per hour over the speed limit.

Murphy opened her laptop on the podium while the resident spoke, making note of the stretches he mentioned.

Resident Linda Jungblut said she feels drivers have been getting more dangerous recently, using their phones and failing to signal. She seldom sees police on Hixson roads, she said, but added that she assumes that's because officers are stationed in higher-crime areas like downtown Chattanooga.

"I'm not complaining about the police officers, I'm very pro-police officers," she said.

(READ MORE: Voters think crime is getting worse in Chattanooga, but data says otherwise)

A Chattanooga Times Free Press survey of more than 300 Hamilton County voters in November found slightly more than half of people feel crime is worsening in the Chattanooga area, though data shows most crimes have decreased. The same rate of people said they would support increasing local law enforcement budgets, the poll showed.

Jungblut said that when it comes to crime, she's less concerned about Hixson than she is about downtown Chattanooga.

Murphy also told residents about the department's investments in technology using state and federal money, including new camera systems and an enhanced drone unit. The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office has also been using drones for searches, monitoring crowds and to survey dangerous areas since 2016, and unveiled a specialized drone command van last year.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga Police Department's new crash response policy brings questions about insurance rates, claims)

"It's almost like having extra personnel," Murphy said.

The chief emphasized that Chattanooga's drones won't be used to spy on residents or harm anyone. They are now operated by sworn officers, though she said civilian employees could help with support in the future.

That's in line with plans Murphy has to increasingly hire civilians for positions, like data analysts, that don't require someone to complete full police training. That practice may make it easier to fill the roughly 25 openings at the department now, she said.

Contact Ellen Gerst at or 423-757-6319.