Check of police reports finds little to support community’s concerns

Published 9:42 am Monday, August 3, 2015

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Police found little to back up complaints of rampant crime in a local city neighborhood.

After a community meeting organized by residents in the area of East I Street and Holston Avenue to address crime in their neighborhood, the Elizabethton Police Department looked into the complaints to see what crime levels are in the vicinity.

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The group invited the Elizabethton Police Department’s Chief Greg Workman and Maj. Shannon Peters to the meeting, which was held this past Wednesday. During the meeting, several residents voiced concerns about what they felt was dangerous criminal activity in their neighborhood.

The group’s spokesman, Chris Simmons, initiated discussion about the various types of crime occurring in the area — ranging from thefts and burglaries to destruction of or damage to private property.

“We are kind of in fear of what happens when we walk out of our house,” Simmons said. “We’re really here to get some ideas.”

After the meeting, the Police Department looked into the complaints by the residents and compared them with calls to the police regarding crimes and suspicious activity.

“Initial statements communicated by residents cited multiple robberies occurring in the vicinity of their homes on East I Street and Holston Avenue,” EPD Capt. Joy Shoun said. “Based on the reports generated with the Elizabethton Police Department, that information is not accurate.”

In order to better understand the concerns of the residents, the department reviewed police reports from January 2013 to present for that neighborhood and the immediate surrounding areas. During that 2 1/2-year period, Shoun said a total of 12 incidents were reported to police about the types of concerns voiced by the community.

Shoun provided the Elizabethton Star with the following summary of those 12 incidents:

τ One incident of a felony assault — during the investigation, the suspect could not be identified

τ Three incidents of illegal drug activity — criminal charges were placed against in each incident.

τ Residential burglary and two stolen vehicles — both vehicles were recovered along with various items of stolen property and returned to owners. Suspects were identified and criminally charged in both cases.

τ Theft of a weed trimmer — there were no suspects, witnesses nor further leads in the theft.

τ Two stolen bicycles — the bicycles have not been found, and there is a lack of evidence linking any suspects to the theft of the items.

τ Misdemeanor theft — several occasions of items being stolen from the back porch of a residence. The suspect was identified and criminal charges placed.

τ Two reports of suspicious activity, but no crime was reported.

Shoun said crimes like those reported by the community are not uncommon but it was enough to raise concern among the residents.

“They feared that the incidents would be a forerunner to additional, and potentially more severe crimes, and wished to take preventative measures to target such individuals,” Shoun said.

The number of incidents and types of crimes being committed are common in communities and are not occurring more frequently in that neighborhood than in any other similar neighborhood.

“We do, however, understand the frustration and uneasiness that can be experienced when individuals learn of such incidents occurring nearby, or become victims of crime themselves,” Shoun said. “We believe that the citizens can also be encouraged by knowing that, in the majority of these specified cases, the offenders were identified and criminally charged.”

“It is the desire of the police department for the city’s residents to have a sense of confidence in our ability to provide safety and protection,” she added.

The department appreciates the input and feedback from the residents, Shoun said.

“With the help of the citizens and involvement by the community, we increase our ability to effectively prevent and prosecute crime,” she said. “Our officers are aware of the concerns, and will continue to work diligently to take the necessary efforts to help ensure the safety and protection of our residents and community.”