Code Enforcement Initiative In Dalton Gets Results

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Dalton Police Department’s new municipal code enforcement plan has been in place for nearly 60 days and it is already leading to positive changes. So far, the effort has led to the demolition of a dangerous building and officials are working toward the elimination of several others; the department has taken more than 80 reports on code issues and also issued more than 30 notices of violation, the majority of which have been resolved quickly without further action.

The department assigned Officer Chris Cochran to full-time municipal code enforcement duties in early March. The agency also created a new website where residents can submit complaints about properties which might be in violation of city codes. So far, the site has collected approximately 20 complaints.  The majority of complaints have come in by phone.

The new approach to code enforcement led to the destruction of a dangerous building at 931 East Morris Street in April.  The building had been gutted by a fire but was still standing.  The building inspector’s office had served notice on the owners in June 2012 giving 120 days to repair or demolish the structure.  Officer Cochran found that neither had happened and no further action had been taken.  Officer Cochran then issued a citation ordering the property owner to appear in Municipal Court.  On April 17, the court ordered the owner to have the building demolished which was completed by April 30. 

Two other abandoned and dangerous buildings (1120 Ridgeleigh Circle and 910 Avenue C) have also been through the court process and are awaiting demolition.  In all, six citations for dangerous buildings have so far been issued. Other notices of violation have led to action on the part of property owners to remove debris and garbage from lots, remove fences that obstruct views at intersections, and the removal of abandoned vehicles.

“Considering the number of property parcels in the city—about 10,000, and the level of decline in some, I believe the progress so far has been excellent,” said Chief Jason Parker.  “Officer Cochran has been diligently responding to complaints, investigating others on his own, and getting the assistance of other officers.”

The effort is intended not just to maintain property values and community pride but also to have a positive impact on crime prevention. Research suggests that areas where property codes 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 researcher James Q. Wilson in a 1982 article in The Atlantic. 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. 

“The feedback from the community has been mostly positive,” Chief Parker said of the department’s renewed focus on code enforcement. “Most who are concerned would like us to move more quickly; we would like that as well but it will take some time to correct years of decline on some properties.”

Dalton residents who wish to contact the Dalton Police Department with concerns about code enforcement issues in the city can submit a complaint online at www.safedalton.com or by email at code@cityofdalton-ga.gov.  Officer Cochran can be reached at 706 278-9085, ext. 173. 

Dalton’s municipal codes can be found online at www.municode.com.  The sections governing dangerous buildings are 22-421 and 22-422.


Congressional Candidate Michael Friedman Announces Economic Prosperity Plan

Dr. Michael B. Friedman, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the House of Representatives for Tennessee’s third district, has announced a plan to bring economic prosperity to the district.  The plan calls for an act of Congress that will allow for an expansion of high speed Internet to all areas of Tennessee’s Third Congressional District – particularly to ... (click for more)

New Scopes Monkey Trial Book Released

Images of America: The Scopes Monkey Trial, by Randy Moore and William F. McComas, will be released on June 13.  The authors examine the trial 91 years later through photographs. Review for Images of America: The Scopes Monkey Trial:  The 1925 case against high school coach and science teacher John Scopes, arrested for teaching evolution in defiance of a Tennessee ... (click for more)

Jury Chosen For Hawk Murder Trial

Twelve jurors and two alternates have been chosen for the trial of Billy Hawk.  Hawk is charged with a cold case murder from 1981 involving victim Johnny Mack Salyer, who was found in a locked steel drum in the Tennessee River. At the time of the murder, Salyer and Hawk were co-defendants in a cocaine distribution case.  Seventy-two jurors appeared for jury duty ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Honors Military Veterans

A Memorial Day service was held at the National Cemetery on Monday. (click for more)

Calling Out Bad Behavior In St. Elmo - And Response (2)

I have lived in the St. Elmo community of Chattanooga for practicially all 52 years of my life. My grandmother moved to St. Elmo in 1919. My Dad was literally born in a home in St. Elmo and lived his entire 72 years in this community and my Mom has lived here 60 years of her life. I am very disappointed in what my neighborhood has become. I like people. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Amputee Team Wins Relay

As a news junkie there isn’t a lot that gets past me in my morning reading, yet I had no idea there was a relay race in Chattanooga two weekends ago. Maybe that’s why 1,500 people ran away and never came back – the finish line was in Nashville. How the Ragnar Relays work is pretty simple. The organizers pick two cities that are about 200 miles apart and then 12-to-14 runners ... (click for more)