Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield declared Friday that Hamilton Place does not have a gang problem and continues to be a safe public place.
Littlefield sent out a news release late Friday afternoon, saying that only one incident in which two gang members robbed a third led to the designation of Hamilton Place as a "gang hotspot" in a Comprehensive Gang Assessment released Thursday.
One incident does not mean Hamilton Place is an area of gang activity or concern, the mayor said.
"The mall and surrounding area is well managed, carefully monitored and patrolled by both public and private security and, to put it bluntly, there is no reason to believe that Hamilton Place has a gang problem," Littlefield said.
The administration's reaction came after City Councilman Jack Benson questioned the gang study, which labeled Hamilton Place as a gang hotspot in 2010. Benson told researchers he went over data from the Chattanooga Police Department that showed crime decreased at Hamilton Place over the last three years.
Boyd Patterson, Gang Task Force coordinator, said the area was designated a hotspot because it was in an area with no gang activity, which singled it out.
"While accurate from a research standpoint, this designation could be easily misunderstood by the general public," Patterson said.
CBL & Associates Properties Inc., which owns Hamilton Place, also released a statement Friday.
"We appreciate the support of Boyd Patterson and Mayor Littlefield in quickly correcting the overstatements in the report referencing Hamilton Place in the citywide assessment as a 'gang hotspot,'" the statement said.
Littlefield makes three points in the news release:
• No area was excluded from the analysis. The suburbs, the inner city, poor neighborhoods and wealthy neighborhoods were all included.
• The Comprehensive Gang Assessment is a living document that will change as more data is tallied in the future and will be a starting place for projects and studies.
• The data shows clearly defined areas with gang problems needing full attention -- Westside, East Chattanooga, Avondale and Alton Park. Hamilton Place received no recommendations in the report for increased security.
Benson said Friday he was happy to hear the mayor's office had sent out a clarifying statement.
"I'm glad they corrected the information because it certainly led to some unjustified anxiety," he said.
Cliff has worked for the Times Free Press for five years and covers Chattanooga city government. He previously covered Rhea County, as well as transportation and growth and development in Southeast Tennessee. A native of Maryville, Tenn., Cliff graduated in 2003 from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis on journalism. Before coming to Chattanooga, he was a crime reporter with Hernando Today, a supplement of The Tampa (Fla.) ...