JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Johnson City Police Department (JCPD) may be on the cusp of opening a substation in the heart of downtown that at least one downtown resident thinks could help improve safety.
The city is asking the Johnson City Development Authority (JCDA) to allow JCPD to set up shop in a section of the Downtown Centre that fronts on East Market Street. The JCDA owns the 38,000-square-foot building, which Northeast State Community College recently vacated.
“I would hope and I would push for presence overnight,” Tricia Korade, who lives downtown and said she generally believes the area is quite safe, told News Channel 11.
“It’s a substation, it’s not manned 24/7,” Korade said. “However overnight, on the weekends when there are an increase of people downtown, when you do have people in and out of bars, it would make sense to me to have more presence there. That allows for quicker response time, it also allows for being able to pull in help when you need it.”
According to an agenda item for Friday’s JCDA meeting, some extended hours are possible: “The facility would not be occupied at all times, but depending on the needs related to downtown events and situations, the hours could vary.”
The area of the Downtown Centre, just inside the entry vestibule, can be locked separately from the rest of the building and includes a walk-up counter with a roll-down window along with several office spaces. Assistant City Manager Randy Trivette said officers who work the downtown beat would use the space for their files, computers, meeting and office space and bike storage.
“If there’s something happens, the access from that location … is so key because they could get down the street to the Farmer’s Market pavilion, they could go through the alleyway and be on to Main Street where all the restaurants and nightlife is occurring,” Trivette said.
“It’s a direct route, so it’s so convenient to where they would need to get to where there could be trouble.”
Korade lives in a condo she bought last year in the heart of downtown.
“The geography of it being downtown does create a space for the police to kind of anchor themselves, but I also think there’s a halo effect to having the signage there so that people who come downtown know that there is a place where the police are found,” Korade said.
To that end, Trivette said the JCPD would put signage not just in the middle of the block where the entrance to the substation is, but also at the corner of Buffalo Street and East Market. He said Major Eric Dougherty was “so excited he wanted to get started immediately” after hearing about the possibility.
“The police are very excited about having a space that they can work out of that puts them closer to downtown where their beat is at,” he said. “So we’ve had our IT people down there looking at what upgrades we need to do to it so that we can get our computers set up.”
If the JCDA approves the request, JCPD could be operating out of the space by early October, Trivette said. The move would be in addition to pending installation of better lighting throughout downtown and an array of security cameras.
“Safety and security is the number one means that we’re trying to achieve down there,” he said.
Korade said she’s very engaged as a citizen, attending meetings and being part of a group that’s made its opinions about downtown policing known. She said the results have been positive.
“I purposely engage with the police department as well as with the officers that patrol downtown,” Korade said. “We have asked for more presence through ongoing conversations about the issues that any city faces, especially cities that are growing and see an acceleration of growth.”
The Florida transplant said she feels safe downtown but knows other people who live or work in the area and don’t share that opinion.
“I will say regardless of what the perspective is of how people personally feel about their safety, everybody agrees that an increase in police presence can only help,” she said.