CPD Chief addresses panhandling, homelessness concerns

Some business owners in North Chattanooga Chamber Council concerned for employees, residents

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) — Northern Chattanooga crime data from this past June to September was presented by Police Chief Celeste Murphy to members of the North Chattanooga Chamber Council.

This soon brought attention to a key concern shared by many — panhandlers swindling residents and tourists, as well as threatening behavior from some of the area’s homeless.

“If you are a victim of something that is committed by a homeless person, we need you to not only file a report but come to court on it,” said CPD Lieutenant Heather Williams. “You have to be willing … If we don’t have a victim, we can’t prosecute.”

One woman says members of her restaurant staff were recently harassed by homeless individuals while making a nightly trip to the dumpster.

During the day, another says one woman nicknamed “The Crate Lady” frequently runs a panhandling business on the Walnut Street Bridge.

Murphy says an intentional effort to have more cops nearby on bicycles was recently made.

“The panhandling and aggressiveness — we’re just not going to let that continue to fester,” Murphy said. “So what we’re doing now to supplement is on certain days when we have more people at work and an easier load on calls, we’re putting them on their bicycles and putting them on the street.”

Another in attendance asked Murphy if the department feels as if it still has support from the community.

The chief asserted it does, and it provides continuous motivation.

“That is what adds fuel to my tank,” Murphy said. “When I see this, this is what I see. This is my perspective. But when I go to a community meeting, they’re not thinking about any of these things — they’re thinking about what’s affecting them. I want to hear that, as well.”

Despite concerns, Williams did give credit to the city’s efforts for still attempting to aid homeless locals in need.

She says local authorities are also attempting to provide proper resources, as well.

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