Image Credit: City of Chattanooga – Government / Facebook
The Tennessee Conservative [By Adelia Kirchner] –
Chattanooga has long held some of the highest crime rates in Tennessee and despite 2023 projections showing lower crime rates in comparison to years past, the results continue to look quite bleak.
“Gun violence is taking a serious personal toll on people’s lives and hurting Chattanoogans’ ability to feel safe in our community,” Liberal Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly said in a statement regarding last week’s Market Street shooting. “I’m outraged at every life lost at the hands of those committing senseless, violent acts. I’m sick of it, and as mayor, I will not tolerate it.”
According to Kelly, the Market Street shooting was not the result of the Chattanooga Police Department (CPD) not doing its job, but instead was the “sad reality” that proactive policing can only do so much.
Like many left-leaning elected officials Kelly has been quick to call out gun-related crimes, especially in light of the Covenant School shooting which prompted a special legislative session back in August.
However, when it comes to petty crimes like loitering, littering, public intoxication, trespassing, and panhandling, it could be argued that the Chattanooga mayor has a track record of creating an atmosphere that emboldens criminals to prey on law abiding citizens.
In June 2021, just a couple months after Kelly took office, documents were revealed showing that only two panhandling violation tickets had been issued that year by the CPD.
Several police officers told The Tennessee Conservative that they wanted to enforce things like the city’s panhandling ordinance but claimed that they had been given specific instructions not to enforce the law.
The CPD denied the claims of these officers and Chattanooga has continued to be impacted by the rampant panhandling, loitering, squatting, and littering allowed by the former mayor’s administration and subsequently Kelly’s administration.
Over a year into Kelly’s mayoral term, Chattanooga residents were still sharing concerns about how the city’s homeless problem was being handled despite Kelly’s claim prior to taking office, that these exact issues were a big priority for him.
In December of 2021, Kelly also sold a property for nearly $3 million after clearing out a homeless encampment on the property earlier that year, which resulted in an investigation conducted by Chattanooga’s internal audit office.
Chattanooga is notorious for its high crime rate and even though projections for 2023 show a very slight downward trend in total instances of crime, the city would still be maintaining a crime rate far higher than the national average.
In 2019, the total crime rate in Chattanooga according to the FBI was sitting at 7,101 per 100,000 people.
As of last year that number increased to 7,715.6 per 100,000 people, 228.88% above the national crime rate at the time which was 2,346.0 per 100,000 people.
The city’s 2022 crime rate was also 143.74% higher than Tennessee’s total crime rate of 3,165.5 per 100,000 people.
According to crimes reported by the CPD in 2021, during Kelly’s first year in office the city saw a rise in drug/narcotic violations, weapon law violations, murder, non-consensual sexual offenses, aggravated assault, burglary, and violent/deadly crimes against law enforcement officers.
In 2022, crime rates for each of those offenses did go down according to the CPD numbers, with the city instead seeing a rise in robbery and fraud related crimes.
However, when compared to the reported crime rates for 2019, before Kelly was elected, this purported decrease in crime is not actually that substantial.
In 2019 there were 437 reported weapons law violations, 285 non-consensual sexual offenses, 1,561 cases of aggravated assault, 197 cases of robbery, and 1,365 motor vehicle thefts.
Compared to 817 reported weapons law violations, 356 non-consensual sexual offenses, 1,685 cases of aggravated assault, 220 cases of robbery, and 1,387 motor vehicle thefts reported in 2022.
While crime rates in Chattanooga are not considerably worse than before Kelly took office, these reports display that the city’s crime rates did go up substantially during Kelly’s first year as mayor and the downward trend for crime seems to only be comparable to crime during the first year of his term.
This leaves Chattanoogans at a stalemate when it comes to levels of crime and a feeling of safety in their community, despite seeing a reported decrease in crime.
About the Author: Adelia Kirchner is a Tennessee resident and reporter for the Tennessee Conservative. Currently the host of Subtle Rampage Podcast, she has also worked for the South Dakota State Legislature and interned for Senator Bill Hagerty’s Office in Nashville, Tennessee. You can reach Adelia at firstname.lastname@example.org.