Downtown business owner concerned about crime and panhandling - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Downtown business owner concerned about crime and panhandling

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

A downtown Chattanooga restaurant owner is calling for action after claiming panhandling and crime have taken a bite out of his business.

Chicken Salad Chick owner, Josh Patton opened the business in downtown Chattanooga about four years ago, but now he's questioning whether it was the right decision.

"If I could do [it] over again it wouldn't have been the first location I picked," said Patton. 

Patton first took interest in the restaurant brand early on as a student at Auburn University, where he met the restaurant's founders. He said when it later came time to franchise, downtown Chattanooga seemed like the ideal location. 

But Patton claims rising crime is making it hard to run a successful business. 

"If people in Chattanooga aren't feeling safe downtown that's an issue that needs to be addressed," said Patton.

He said parking is a problem, but panhandling has impacted his business the most.

"Downtown is supposed to be a panhandle free zone but I don't know how well it's enforced," said Patton."[We've had] some customers tell us that they're uncomfortable and don't want to come back."

The Chattanooga Police Department provided records showing the number of low-level crimes reported from July 1 to December 31, 2016: 

  • Burglary - 2
  • Theft from Building - 20
  • Theft from Vehicle - 15
  • Shoplifting - 5
  • Motor Vehicle Theft - 4

All those reports were filed within a quarter mile radius of Patton's business.

Police said their records do not include a high number of panhandling calls, but Sgt. Mike Taylor said there is a plan in place to stop it.

In a few cases that have included the use of a new aggressive panhandling charge that could result in up to 90 days in jail. 

"We do the best we can to try to address it when we see it but often times it goes on behind our backs," said Taylor. "Often times we can go out and patrol and if we observe something we can engage it, but many times it's up to the people downtown, business owners to call us and let us know so that we can address it."

Patton said more needs to be done, and he's not the only downtown business owner who is desperate for a remedy.

"I do know some other business owners who that one of them had closed the downtown restaurant just because it just wasn't making sense to stay open." 

Patton is hoping to get the attention of city officials so a fix can be found for his business and for the city's sake. 

"Can we further address with the city some of these issues? Of course. It'll just take time, and I hope that some of the new, elected officials coming up that they'll make that a top priority," said Patton. 

Channel 3 reached out to Patton's city council representative, Chris Anderson, and Mayor Berke for comment. When we hear back we'll be sure to share their thoughts on the issue at WRCBtv.com. 

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