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Meetings network neighbors, police

Panhandlers. Odd interactions taking place in parking lots. Decreasing burglaries.

These were all topics of discussion at the most recent Chattanooga Police Interaction Committee Sector 3 meeting held monthly at the Shepherd Community Center. Designed to engage the community with local police, the meetings offer a time and place for local officers to share updates with the community on police efforts in the area, and residents are encouraged to voice their concerns.

The Chattanooga Police Department Sector 3 region includes Highway 58, Ooltewah, East Brainerd, Brainerd, Tyner and the airport.

“We are not a crime-ridden area,” said Chattanooga District 6 City Councilwoman Carol Berz at the beginning of the meeting. “We have fabulous police support. I’m sick and tired of people thinking Brainerd or District 6 is some crime-ridden place and the police are just hanging out. I’ve been sitting in these meetings over a year. I think we need to also praise our police for the wonderful things we know they do.”

Lt. Zach McCullough said crime has decreased in the area as much as 10 percent despite a 7 percent rise in the number of calls police received.

“Most of you who’ve been coming know that we’ve been working really hard on residential break-ins this year and our car break-ins,” he said. “Burglaries are down as a result of that and we’re real proud of that.”

Upcoming efforts in the area will include a Sector 3 “saturation” in March that will bring additional police presence and focus to the region, he said.

“I’m not going to go into the operational aspect of that, but it places a lot of department resources in the area for a certain amount of time,” said Capt. David Roddy. “We’re going to dedicate a lot of resources to hot spots.”

During the meeting, local residents in the East Brainerd, Shepherd and Tyner communities expressed some concern with different issues they perceived in the area. Panhandling, specifically those that sell items where East Brainerd Road splits from Brainerd Road, generated a major discussion as the officers discussed what is and isn’t legal.

“They’re not allowed to sell anything next to a roadway,” said Roddy. “You cannot solicit to a vehicle in a roadway. From my understanding, you are not allowed to exchange from the side of a roadway to an individual in a car.”

McCullough said that some of the individuals panhandling in the area have actually taken the bus to Sector 3 from downtown and are making as much as $80 an hour through their efforts. The Police Department is working to cite people engaging in illegal behavior, he added. Once they have been cited they usually do not become repeat offenders, he said.

In addition to panhandling, local residents also asked about behavior they perceived as suspicious, including late night exchanges between people in empty parking lots or cars parked outside of empty houses. Both officers reminded residents of the nonemergency police number and said people should call the department any time they feel uncomfortable, and should try to provide as much information as possible during those calls.

“Be safe, and anything you can get us is better than what we started with,” said Roddy. “But none of it is worth getting yourself hurt. Be aware of your neighborhood and if it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, call us.”

For more information about the CPIC program, call the Chattanooga Police Department at 643-5090.

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