Robbery ordeal is face of crime's growth in suburbs
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- Larry Ellgas knew he was a mark when the young man walked up, as he was unloading the trunk of his car at midnight Monday, in front his apartment at Hamilton Pointe, a complex in East Brainerd.
And he couldn't do anything about it.
"He looked like someone in high school, fairly clean cut. Asked me to use my cell phone."
Ellgas had his hands full. And, he concedes, he was aware of everything but his surroundings.
"The second one came up behind the car, put a gun to my face--said, where's your wallet?"
He wasn't carrying it. That left him staring down the barrel of a revolver while the accomplice rummaged through his Mustang for what seemed like forever.
Chattanooga Police would find his wallet Tuesday morning, in the parking lot of Timber Ridge, an apartment complex directly across from Hamilton Pointe. The thieves left some of their clothing, Ellgass' driver's license and his credit cards. They took his cash, debit cards and a Walmart gift card.
"Four squad cars were here, in minutes," Ellgass says. "They also confided in me that there'd been an increase in crime in this area and that's why they're so readily available."
"Yes, we do have numerical evidence that crime is up in East Brainerd and other suburbs," says Boyd Patterson, co-director of the Chattanooga Gangs Task Force.
"And yes, it is being utilized by law enforcement."
Patterson won't discuss firm numbers, or specify how the crime reports are affecting police patrols and crime-fighting strategies.
But he maintains that the spikes in crimes have been large enough, over extended periods, to strengthen partnerships and cooperation among all law enforcement agencies in Hamilton County, and several across the Georgia line.
"The answer is collaboration," Patterson says. "Using the resources that are available for those authorized to go into those areas."
Ellgas believes his landlord could do more to improve safety.
"There could be more lighting over here," he says. "There are no security patrols either."
Hamilton Pointe managers say they sent residents a 'heads-up' letter about six months ago, after police advised them of a crime spike in East Brainerd. Another letter may go out, thanks to Ellgas' ordeal. They say they'll review security procedures.
"It's unfortunately our new normal," Patterson says.
Ellgas has gotten a wake-up call on several levels.
"I 'm a former law enforcement officer, and it didn't hit home to me, he says.
"I've been in Chattanooga about a year and a half. Unfortunately fairly tainted my view about living here now."