TOTAL INCIDENTS PER YEAR
Source: The State of Chattanooga Region Report 2010: Public Safety
Although Red Bank and East Ridge accounted for only 10 percent of Hamilton County's violent crime in 2009, a study shows slight increases for both in violent and property crimes in those towns over the last five years.
But specific crime trends in both cities differed in The State of Chattanooga Region Report 2010: Public Safety, compiled by the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies. The center used data from state and federal crime statistics for the Chattanooga Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Between 2005 and 2009, Red Bank's incident rate for what the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation calls "Type A" crimes - murder, robbery, burglary, aggravated assault and motor vehicle theft - increased 16.7 percent. In the same time, those crimes decreased 1.4 percent in East Ridge.
"Almost every week, we'll see different crimes solved by an alert neighbor seeing something that doesn't look right," said East Ridge's interim city manager, Eddie Phillips. "And our crime suppression units don't look like police cars until their lights come on. We've got marked cars as a deterrent and unmarked [cars] to catch them in the act."
In Red Bank, the number of murders, robberies and simple assaults fell between 2005 and 2009, but vandalism, burglary, shoplifting, aggravated assault, motor vehicle theft and drug offenses all increased, the report shows.
"A lot of things hinge on the economy and crime is one of them," said Dan Knight, interim police chief. "Take assault. A guy loses his job, he's out of work and, bam! Tension builds in the home. Another arrest."
Out of all Hamilton County municipalities, Red Bank showed the greatest increase in "destruction" and vandalism charges. Between 2005 and 2009, the city saw a 74 percent increase - from 85 incidents to 148 incidents.
Knight said the increase is related to data classification.
"We had an apartment complex outburst where 20 cars got a paint job or Magic Marker," Knight said. "And they even got a police car." Each vehicle got its own incident report, he said, which jacked up the figures.
One of the most dramatic increases for Red Bank and East Ridge was shoplifting, an offense Knight also attributed to a rough economy.
"Anytime your economy goes bad, people have a tendency toward theft," he said. "A lot of people don't realize how much stores have to write off from theft - internal and shoplifting. [Store owners] don't care if it's a pack of gum."
But the Ochs report identifies East Ridge's overall crime rate per 100,000 residents as the second-highest in the region, right behind Chattanooga.
"A lot of people pass through past East Ridge, and we're right on the state line," Phillips said. "We're right there in the middle with two freeways. Besides Chattanooga, we've got the highest number of visitors at any given time."
East Ridge officials reported fewer motor vehicle thefts and burglaries, the Ochs report shows, but aggravated assaults increased by 28.5 percent.
Many of these assaults occur between people who know each other, Phillips said.
"The good thing about these assaults is that they're almost always not random violence on unsuspecting citizens," he said.
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