Concerns About Crime in Chattanooga

Chattanoogans are deeply concerned about their safety in the city. For many, it feels like crime rates have been on the rise for years now, with no promise that anyone is safe from being victimized. Certain high-profile cases, including murders, have fostered fear in the hearts of those in our community who once saw Chattanooga as a safe place. A survey conducted by the Manhattan Institute of over 500 Chattanooga residents revealed that 68% of them believe that crime and public safety are major issues in Chattanooga. A mere 14% stated that crime and public safety are not major issues in the city. But does this accurately reflect the state of crime in Chattanooga?

Each year, the Chattanooga Police Department releases an annual report that covers the past year’s crime statistics. The information in the report is based on the data collected in the Chattanooga Police Department’s law enforcement databases, which are constantly being updated based on the disposition of cases. Like all data, the report’s information may seem concrete, but runs the risk of being flawed if its sample set, computation, and interpretation is inaccurate or misrepresentative. Residents who have questions or concerns about the annual crime report can reach out to the Chattanooga Police Department’s Public Affairs Office.

The 2023 Annual Report for the Chattanooga Police Department reports that crime in the city decreased by 12% overall during the year. The department attributes this to their activities, such as youth outreach programs and the Real-Time Crime Intelligence Center. This decrease includes an 11% decrease in crimes against property since 2022 and a 10% decrease in crimes
against persons.

The number of property-related crimes reported in Chattanooga in 2023 was 9,698. This may be expressed as about five out of every one-hundred people in Chattanooga being the victim of a property crime, assuming that Chattanooga has a population of about 180,000. Although there has been a particular concern in Chattanooga regarding guns being stolen from cars in recent years, the overall number of thefts from motor vehicles decreased by 19% from 2022 to 2023.

The total number of crimes against persons, or violent crimes, decreased from 2022’s 1,778 to 2023’s 1,594. The majority of these cases were aggravated assaults, and a concerning 222 of these crimes were classified as forcible sex offenses. Although we should strive to reduce the number of crimes against persons further, it is a relief to know that forcible sex crimes fell by 16% in 2023, and aggravated assaults by 9%.

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If crime is falling, then why do Chattanoogans feel so unsafe?

The answer might also be found in the 2023 Annual Report’s data. There has been a daunting increase in certain crimes, and the media in Chattanooga has been sure to report these stories closely. After all, the more serious the crime, the more viewers the news report tends to get – and news platforms are reliant upon attracting a viewership to stay in business. Regardless of the media’s coverage, though, the unfortunate fact is that certain crimes are on the rise in Chattanooga. From 2022 to 2023, there was an 11% increase in homicides, for example. Gun violence is also on the rise in Chattanooga, with a jarring 25% increase in fatal shooting victims and 7% increase in non-fatal shooting victims. According to the Manhattan Institute’s survey, Chattanoogans are feeling the effects of this jump in homicides and shootings. Half of the
Chattanooga residents surveyed stated they felt there was more violent crime in the city than in 2020, an opinion that stretches across political party lines.

Meanwhile, drug crime is also increasing. Types of crime classified by CPD as “crimes against society,” including DUIs and disorderly conducts, rose slightly, by 3%, in 2023. The majority of these crimes against society are drug-related offenses. There were 3,369 drug–related offenses in Chattanooga in 2023. This may seem like a small uptick from 2022’s number, but the real concern is the rapid increase in drug-related deaths. Reflecting the nationwide opioid crisis, Chattanooga experienced a 20% increase in fatal overdoses last year. While most of these overdoses were caused by an unidentified pill or opioid, at least 215 were the result of fentanyl and fentanyl polys. Although the opioid epidemic touches all parts of Chattanooga, the highest concentration of fatal overdoses occurred in the downtown area.

Overall, drug-related offenses only rose by 5% in 2023 – in fact, the largest increase in crimes against society is a 22% increase in DUIs. Why are DUIs on the rise in Chattanooga? Such a complex question requires a complex answer. Chattanooga has a thriving bar and restaurant culture, but few options for public transportation. While Uber and Lyft are established in the city, the sprawling nature of the greater Chattanooga area can make the cost of a hired ride prohibitive. In addition, Chattanooga has many colleges and universities, making it an attractive city for a younger crowd, who are less experienced around alcohol and generally more likely to commit crimes. Finally, the CDC has recently published research suggesting that alcoholism is on the rise in the United States. Particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol-related deaths and emergency room visits increased considerably. This is a sign that more Americans may be drinking in greater amounts and with greater frequency.

The increase in DUIs might also be a reflection of increased law enforcement against impaired driving. Since the 2023 Report’s statistics are a reflection of the crimes reported and adjudicated in Chattanooga rather than crimes committed, the rising number of DUIs may just mean that law enforcement caught more people driving impaired in 2023, rather than that more people were driving impaired than in 2022.

Residents may or may not be shocked by the numbers in the Chattanooga Police Department’s 2023 Annual Report. While crime is generally declining in Chattanooga, it is increasing in a few key ways that can have deadly consequences. It is natural to feel anxiety about Chattanooga’s crime rates, but there is comfort in knowing that taking the proper precautions can be life-saving. Keep the doors to your house and car locked whenever possible, stay away from downtown areas known to house a lot of crime, and do not take street drugs from anyone – there is always a risk the substance could be laced with fentanyl. In addition, check out
our DUI Prevention Guide to help keep you and your friends partying around the city SAFELY this summer. You can also reach out to city and state officials to respectfully voice any concerns
or suggestions you have regarding crime in Chattanooga.

As always, if you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, Best & Brock is your resource for legal expertise and guidance. Our attorneys handle charges ranging from petty theft to first degree murder with efficiency and empathy. When your future is on the line, you want the best of the best on your side! Reach out by calling (423) 829-1055 or by filling out our online contact form to set up your FREE consultation with one of our criminal defense attorneys.

Garth Best was extremely helpful in my case. He explored and explained everything to me clearly and never stopped checking out every option. I am absolutely grateful I chose him as my attorney. Best and Brock are a great choice for representation. Thanks again.

- Jeremy Forgey

Matt Brock did an outstanding job with my case. Very thorough and knowledgeable attorney, highly recommended. Its very obvious through my interactions with him that he has the experience and knowledge to win in court. I will not go anywhere else. Great job, much appreciated.

- Chris Griffin

Sources used in the production of this blog:

Arm, Jesse. “Assessing Crime in Chattanooga: Survey Analysis of City Residents on Public Safety, Policing, and Policy Reforms,” Manhattan Institute, March 26, 2024.

Crimes Analysis Unit and Public Affairs Office, “2023 Annual Report,” Chattanooga Police Department, 2023.

Esser MB, Sherk A, Liu Y, Naimi TS. “Deaths from Excessive Alcohol Use – United States, 2016–2021.” Center for Disease Control, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 73:154–161.

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