Preventing a culture of violence
Dec 09, 2012 | 958 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jim Ruth, Bradley County
Jim Ruth, Bradley County Sheriff
There have been conflicting reports in the news media, recently, about the rise and fall of criminal activity in our nation over the last few years. Some say violent crime is down, but daily news stories tell a different tale. One story in a Chattanooga newspaper said that violent crime per capita is greater in Cleveland than Chattanooga. Has doomsday arrived more quickly than I predicted?

Well, I don’t think so! The problem is the way that the crime is reported and then compiled. Most criminologists will tell you that crime is underreported by many law enforcement agencies across the country. For example, burglaries have been reported as vandalism by some agencies. Domestic violence and other crimes against persons have been un-reported altogether. This was a small scandal for one of the largest police departments in Tennessee, just a short time ago.

There is a great deal of pressure on some law enforcement heads to make their city or county look good. It is hard to sell an expensive house when it is located near a crime-infested area. People do not want to shop at a store or shopping center where there is a strong likelihood of being mugged or otherwise accosted. Neither do parents want their kids enrolled in schools located in seedy neighborhoods. I want to caution all of our residents to not become desensitized or otherwise complacent about the increasing criminal activity, but I, also, do not want our citizens to live in fear.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed, they used to say. So, from time to time I try to update the law-enforcement needs as I see them and bring these problems and solutions to our taxpayers.

There are certain absolutes when it comes to keeping a community safe.

Some are listed below:

n Public safety/law enforcement is very expensive. There is no cheap alternative. It is to the credit though of some of our sheriff’s in the last few decades that they tried to uphold a certain standard by using uniformed and detective reserves extensively. At times they have purchased used cars and other used equipment to try to save taxpayer money. Some of these cars were dangerously overused and many times our deputies were embarrassed in public. Some of the smaller towns and counties around had newer cars and equipment.

Over the years we have been fortunate to have some good people who have given freely of their time with thousands of hours spent in patrolling, in making investigations and in other special services for the county. We are grateful for these reserve deputies who still give a lot of their time and money for Bradley Counties’ safety. Yet, as good as this corps of people has been, we can no longer depend so much on our volunteer force.

n The bottom line is still the same as it was years ago. Deputies must be in the area and on patrol in order to have a safe community. This principal has been proven time and again across the country. We have proven this locally by beefing up the geographical area of our county where 20 percent of our calls for service and crimes originate, but which covers only 4 percent of our land mass. We have placed trained, experienced deputies in this area and we are seeing a decrease in crime and calls for service there. More importantly, people feel safer walking down the street or sitting on their front porch.

n Trained and experienced deputies are cost effective and are always better than a continual revolving roster. An experienced deputy has built up a great store of information that is very valuable to the whole Sheriff’s Office. We call this “institutional memory.” I am always disappointed when one of our longtime employees has to go somewhere else in order to properly raise their family. Some hold on for years thinking that they will soon have a career service plan and a merit pay system in effect; in other words, improvement to look forward to. They become discouraged, a job opportunity opens at another agency that pays better and the deputy feels he owes it to his family to move on. I understand it, but believe it is wrong for things to be that way. It is a no-win situation. We lose, they lose and the taxpayer loses. Please think about it objectively. I believe we are going to have to take the next step to put in place a career service plan and merit pay plan for the dedicated, career-minded men and women at the Sheriff’s Office.

n We will always be subject to firing the wrongdoer. We will always have to dismiss deputies when they break the law or take some egregious action(s) that embarrass the whole BCSO.

In closing I want to say that our deputies over the years have been innovative and, even, ingenious in keeping Bradley County a safe and decent place to call home. The Bradley County Sheriff’s Office is working to continue in this tradition of creativity, innovation and ingenuity to maintain our peaceful culture. They are still laboring under less than ideal conditions, hoping for a better day.

Thanks for reading.