Chattanooga goals include reducing crime

Chattanooga goals include reducing crime

September 22nd, 2014 by Shelly Bradbury in Local Regional News

Illustration by Laura McNutt /Times Free Press.

BERKE'S GOALS FOR CHATTANOOGA

• Reduce violent crime by 20 percent by June 2016

• Reduce family violence by 20 percent by June 2016

• Reduce fire incidents by 10 percent by June 2016

• Reduce unemployment by 25 percent by September 2015

• Generate $500 million in business capital investment each year

• Increase CARTA bus ridership to 150,000 average monthly users by June 2015

• Increase the number of registered neighborhood associations

• Increase number of active Lexia students to 2,500 from 1,202 by June 2015

• Increase the participation of minority-owned businesses in city bids to 14 percent from 12.8 percent by June 2015

• Reduce purchase order processing costs by 30 percent by June 2015

• Maintain S&P bond rating of AAA

Source: City of Chattanooga

Andy Berke

Andy Berke

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Chattanooga finally has a public report card -- or at least part of one.

For the first time since Mayor Andy Berke created a new city budget that tied $216 million of funding to performance outcomes in May, a handful of those performance metrics have been released online for public perusal.

The specific goals range from reducing violent crime by 20 percent by mid-2016 to increasing the number of people who ride CARTA buses each month. The city's new website, ChattaData, tracks 13 goals in all -- although each metric is measured and presented in a slightly different way and not all the goals are included on the website.

Berke said his staff decided which goals the public would likely be most interested in and focused on those areas. Some of the left-out items are internal goals like creating an employee handbook.

Instead, the city is focusing on broad social issues such as crime, unemployment, literacy and diversity. Some of the city's most dramatic goals center on crime. Berke wants to see a 20 percent drop in "average monthly incidents" of violent crime by June 2016.

Average monthly incidents is a very different number from actual monthly incidents. In August 2014, the city saw 155 incidents of violent crime -- that includes rapes, homicides, aggravated assaults and robberies -- but the month's average was much lower: just 128 incidents.

It's that lower number the city is basing its goals on. The goal is 114 average monthly incidents by June 2016. Brent Goldberg, the city's chief operating officer, said the average is a better way to see trends over time.

"Crime is volatile and you're going to go way up and way down each month," he said. "But you want to see whether the overall trend is down."

The city calculates the target figure by averaging each month's incidents back through June 2013. So August's average is based on 15 months of data, while July's was based on 14 months, June's on 13 months, and so on. The first month, June 2013, was averaged with itself.

The average method doesn't provide a year-over-year comparison, as crime data is often measured. Year-over-year, the number of violent incidents in June, July and August of 2013 is almost equal to the number this summer -- 420 this year compared to 427 in 2013 -- despite a lower monthly average.

On the other hand, in February 2014, the city saw 90 incidents of violence, while the average monthly figure was 123.

Goldberg said the city considered several ways to present the data, but decided to use averages for the overall picture and the fiscal year because the metrics will be used to determine which organizations are funded in the city's budget.

Organizations that receive funding from the city this year will need to be at or close to their goals to be funded again next year, said Lacie Stone, the mayor's spokeswoman.

Goldberg added that the raw data -- the actual number of violent crimes -- is also available on the website for people who want to dig deeper.

"We want it to be as useful as possible," he said.

Chattanooga police Chief Fred Fletcher said he thinks the 20 percent drop in violent crime is an ambitious but achievable goal. He said the goal will not influence the way police record crimes.

"I want everyone to report every crime," he said. "As long as I'm here, there will be no effort to discourage reporting crimes. I understand that makes achieving the numbers more difficult, but the mayor and I would rather people be safe than achieve a meaningless number."

Berke said he hopes to use the ChattaData information to correct problems as they arise and keep the city on track to meet the goals in 2015 and 2016.

"We have goals to ensure we're driving toward them," he said. "We want there to be an urgency to drive down the crime numbers by 20 percent."

Staff writer Joy Lukachick-Smith contributed to this story.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or at sbradbury@timesfreepress.com with tips or story ideas.