Dalton Police Begin New Code Enforcement Initiative

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The Dalton Police Department is beginning a new approach to the enforcement of municipal codes to improve the appearance and safety of property throughout the city of Dalton.  The new effort includes the full-time assignment of an officer to code enforcement duties and the establishment of a website where citizens can submit complaints about code violations.  This effort is important not just for the maintenance of property values and community pride; DPD leaders believe the effort can also have a positive impact on crime prevention. 

While code enforcement has been a part of the Dalton Police Department’s strategic plans every year (since January 2011, the DPD has filed more than 330 incident reports on code violations) the formation of a new code enforcement officer position and the development of a new “Quality of Life” program represents a new focus on an issue that is about more than just having things “look nice”.  Chief Jason Parker said, “Our goal is the safety and improvement of the community.  There are several enforcement and abatement remedies within the city’s ordinances, but we would prefer property owners to proactively work with us to correct problems.”

Research suggests that areas where codes governing the appearance of residential and business property are enforced experience less crime than areas where property is neglected.  The so-called “Broken Windows Theory” states that areas where buildings are allowed to fall into disrepair experience more crime because criminals feel there is less order and residents are less vigilant.  The theory was first put forth by researchers George Kelling and James Q. Wilson in a 1982 article in “The Atlantic Monthly.” In 2005, researchers from Harvard and Suffolk Universities found that when issues such as broken street lamps, litter, building codes were focused on in crime “hot spots” in Lowell Massachusetts, calls for service in those areas fell by 20 percent.  Chief Jason Parker stated, “Simple things like picking up trash and junk send a strong message to criminals that people care and are keeping an eye out in their neighborhood.”

The city of Dalton’s municipal code contains standards for the maintenance of residential and business properties. Among the different types of violations the police department will be working to correct are issues such as graffiti, illegal signage, maintenance of existing structures, overgrown lots or yards, public nuisances, and unregistered or inoperable vehicles left on property within the city.  The code enforcement unit will also work with owners or lien holders to ensure that abandoned or foreclosed properties stay in compliance with the municipal code. The Police Department will be using the guidelines of the International Property and Maintenance Code (IPMC), which was adopted as a city ordinance in 2009.  The IPMC is maintained and amended from time-to-time by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

The Dalton Police Department has created a position within the Patrol Division for a Code Enforcement Officer.  Officer Chris Cochran has been assigned to this post.  He will work with other patrol officers to identify problem areas and also systematically inspect all property within the city limits.  The DPD will also work to make the code enforcement function more effective through proactive enforcement and also researching how other jurisdictions have combated code problems.  Chief Jason Parker stated, “We are fortunate to have the opportunity and the resources to make an overall improvement in our community.  Some areas will improve quickly, but other will require a more intensive, collaborative approach with other departments and organizations.”  The code enforcement function will work with Dalton’s city government to develop innovative codes and strategies to combat difficult problems.  Officer Cochran will also be working to increase interaction with the community through media coverage and community meetings. 

While Officer Cochran is the only officer assigned specifically to code enforcement duties, all Dalton officers will be able to assist with code enforcement functions.  One advantage to having a sworn law enforcement officer working in the position is that Cochran will have the full investigative skills necessary to follow up on cases that require particular expertise, and may continue for weeks.

A code violation complaint form has been set up at www.safedalton.com which citizens can use to alert the police department about potential code violations which need inspection, and Officer Cochran can be reached at code@cityofdalton-ga.gov.


Hunter Museum To Host Jazzanooga Brunches This Fall

The Hunter Museum of American Art will host a special series of brunches this fall featuring live jazz in partnership with Jazzanooga, a citywide celebration of jazz co-founded by Shane Morrow and James McKissic. The Hunter Museum has been a partner with Jazzanooga since its 2011 inception. This year they are expanding the partnership beyond the April events to include a series ... (click for more)

East Ridge Police Department To Conduct Labor Day Weekend Saturation

The East Ridge Police Department will be conducting a patrol saturation across the upcoming Labor Day weekend. The additional officers will focus their efforts on vehicle crash reduction and public safety enhancement. ERPD would like to wish everyone a happy and safe holiday weekend. (click for more)

Bradley, 24, Charged In Death Of Boy, 3; Child Had Numerous Injuries After Left With Boyfriend; Mother Was In Workhouse

Justin Dale Bradley has been charged with criminal homicide in the death of a three-year-old child, who was rushed to the hospital on Wednesday and later died. Police said Dakota James Arndt had numerous injuries over his body. Authorities said Bradley, 24, is the boyfriend of the child's mother, Brianna Kwekel, who was in the Workhouse at the time. Ms. Kwekel was serving 48 ... (click for more)

Helen Burns Sharp Asks Recovery Of Legal Fees In Successful Black Creek TIF Lawsuit

Helen Burns Sharp, citizen activist who sued to try to stop a $9 million Black Creek Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and won, is seeking to have her legal expenses paid by the city and the developers. Ms. Sharp said in a court filing that her legal bills to attorney John Konvalinka are $74,427 thus far. Chancellor Frank Brown ruled in favor of Ms. Sharp, saying the Sunshine ... (click for more)

The Many Lessons I Learned From Helen McDonald Exum

Helen McDonald Exum was my friend and mentor. As I think of her passing I can only imagine the celebration that is happening in heaven as the news of her arrival is being told. I am sure that there is a party that not only has she organized but that there is not a detail that has been left to chance. I am sure that it is the grandest of events, for you see, she has been planing ... (click for more)

Insurance Burden Should Not Fall On The Teachers

I have attended several Hamilton County School Board meetings over the past few months, including the recent special called meeting" to vote on teacher insurance changes. First, let me say I am very impressed with Superintendent Rick Smith and his staff at the Central Office.  Mr. Smith is a very dedicated public servant, working hard to provide services to our community ... (click for more)