Wednesday, May 16, 2012
As the third-largest and busiest police department in the tri-state area, East Ridge Public Safety Director Chief Eddie Phillips says he is glad the department’s biggest challenge is eliminating property crime, not suppressing gang activity.
“We know we have gang members who live and go to school in East Ridge,” he said. “But because of our lead investigator who’s trained and qualified in gang relations, officers who have also been trained and our involvement in Chattanooga Area Gang Enforcement, we feel like we are staying on top of it. Because of these efforts we don’t know of any organized gangs located in the area.”
Phillips said a recent four-pronged safety initiative has led to reducing property crime and continues to keep gangs at bay in East Ridge. The prongs of that safety initiative include coordinating a citywide Neighborhood Watch program, allocating funds for unmarked tactical patrol with undercover officers, dividing the city into three small patrol districts instead of two larger ones and coordinating canine, narcotics and tactical patrol officers into a more concentrated and efficient effort.
“We won’t really be happy until there’s no break-ins,” he said. “We’ve really been able to work to reduce property crime, but if we have one, that’s still too many.”
The continuing property crime, Phillips said, is rarely violent and is often related to other criminal activity.
“We know drug activity and property crimes are connected,” he said. “This crime is often committed by guys who are trying to get more money for drugs.”
As the city of East Ridge continues to work on decreasing property crime and keeping a minimal gang presence in the city, Phillips said there are ways the average citizen can help.
“It really is going to take the law-abiding citizens and the police working together. That will stop crime,” he said. “You know better than we do who belongs in your neighborhood and who doesn’t. Learn how to be a good witness and remember to notice the type of car and the tag number of suspicious vehicles.”
He encourages citizens to call the police if they have reason to be suspicious.
“We really hate going to a burglary and meeting the little old lady next door who said she didn’t know why those guys were loading stuff up in the pickup truck, but she thought it was odd,” said Phillips. “Don’t be afraid to call the police. We’re not going to come in and start shooting people.”
For more information about East Ridge Neighborhood Watch programs, contact Officer Erik Hopkins with East Ridge Public Safety Public Information and Crime Prevention at 867-3718.