As the city of Collegedale deals with fallout from a lawsuit that alleges its police department operates an "illegal quota system," that same department recently helped garner the city high marks in terms of safety statewide.
According to safewise.com, Collegedale is the third safest city in Tennessee, falling only behind Pleasant View and Belle Meade.
The 2019 rankings are based not only on the violent crime rate, but also factor in property crime rates. The site lists Collegedale as having 0.5 violent crimes and 16.58 property-based crimes per every 1,000 residents.
Collegedale officials said a combination of citizen participation, low call rates that give officers more time to do patrols, and officer incentives, along with other factors, keep the crime rate low.
"I think first it starts with our citizens, with the people that live here," said Lt. Jack Sapp. "I think they look after each other; I think neighbors look after neighbors. They work with us on reporting suspicious vehicles or activity. If something seems amiss in their neighborhood, they contact us and let us look into it."
In addition to citizen support, the Collegedale Police Department has programs such as a crime suppression team and community initiatives that focus on bike and pedestrian safety, burglary and fraud prevention, and opioid concerns, according to Sapp.
"We have a dedicated group of professional men and women that are invested into this city and they come to work every day with the mindset that they want to keep our citizens safe," he said. "Hopefully, best case scenario, we will be able to adapt and grow as the city grows and increase our services and do what we need to do to keep that safety level where it's at."
A lawsuit filed earlier this month by former Collegedale police officer Robert Bedell alleges that in December 2018, the department began directing officers to meet a minimum number of "enforcement actions" and "patrol activities" each month. It states that each officer had to complete at least 25 enforcement actions (written citations or arrests) and 100 patrol activities, something Bedell's attorney Janie Parks Varnell argues is against state law.
" ... There has been no 'quota' directed by the chief of police nor anyone in the command staff," Sapp wrote in an email to all patrol officers in response to Bedell's preliminary misgivings in early January.
Mayor Katie Lamb has lived in Collegedale for more than 45 years and believes the area draws a variety of people, from those with young kids to older individuals.
"We try our best to have our city be family-friendly, and I think when you take into consideration the needs of the family, then safety is a major issue," she said.
Sapp and City Manager Ted Rogers feel that ample financial support of the police department also helps to make the city safer.
"You have to have adequate resources," said Rogers. "You can train people all day long to do something, but you have to give them the adequate resources for them to be able to function, and I think we do that here."
Collegedale ranks above the other cities in the area, with Signal Mountain coming in ninth place, Soddy-Daisy in 27th, East Ridge in 84th and Chattanooga in 110th place out of the 124 cities ranked.
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