Moderated by Rick Badie
Several in-town communities concerned about neighborhood crime have enjoined law enforcement to rid them of this problem. Today, Atlanta Police Chief George N. Turner writes about what’s being done by his department, while a Peoplestown activist offers his view on fighting riff-raff.
By George N. Turner
A recent article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution implied that Mayor Kasim Reed and I have dismissed concerns about an uptick in crime in East Atlanta as “more perception than fact.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m even more concerned that any resident or business owner in the city would believe that I am not concerned by crimes committed against them.
Since I became police chief in Jan.2010, I have pledged never to dismiss any citizen’s concern of crime as a problem with perception. Being robbed at gunpoint is not a perception. It is reality. Having your car broken into, or your home burglarized, is not perception. It is reality.
I see the serious crimes that have plagued East Atlanta and other parts of our city in recent weeks as real problems in need of real solutions by the Atlanta Police Department and our partners in law enforcement and our communities. I can assure you, I take these crimes personally and find them unacceptable.
Context is hugely important. Facts – not statistics twisted to fit any agenda – bear out that major felony crimes are at lows not seen since the late 1960s. This particular fact was put to the test on Feb. 13 by the AJC PoltiFact team this year, which found the claim to be true.
When I started as a rookie officer in 1981, this city logged 182 homicides. Last year, we recorded 83 homicides — a reduction of more than 54 percent and the second-lowest number since 1961 (there were 80 homicides in 2009). At the high point, the city saw 263 homicides in 1973.
Citywide, we are seeing the same trend with burglaries and robberies. Since 2009, shortly before Mayor Reed took office and I took the reins at APD, there has been a 34 percent reduction in burglaries, a 1 percent reduction in robberies and an 18 percent reduction in overall crime across the city. Specifically, in East Atlanta’s Zone 6, there has been a 38 percent reduction in burglaries and a 17 percent reduction in crime overall in that time period.
We must work harder to reduce the number of robberies in Zone 6 and other parts of the city. I assure you, we are utilizing every resource at our disposal to fight this trend. We continue to deploy our Atlanta Proactive Enforcement and Interdiction Unit and our Motors and Mounted Patrol units. We recently started a new unit to patrol the Atlanta Beltline, the Path Force, which has already made more than 40 arrests in just a few weeks of existence.
We are also changing the way we approach crime, not only analyzing past trends but seeking to identify and predict future criminal movements.
This is not just a Zone 6 issue; this is an issue for the entire department and our entire community. We must rely on citizens to be our eyes and ears on the street and call 911 when they see suspicious activity.
Together, we can win the fight against crime.
George N. Turner is chief of the Atlanta Police Department.
Murder, gangs must go
By Jackson Faw
“I’m outta here! Loved being downtown for three years but hated not feeling safe. Good luck to you soldiers continuing the good fight!”
This was a recent Facebook post from a Peoplestown neighbor. In intown Atlanta neighborhoods south of the railroad tracks, a recent spate of ugly, violent crime has spurred outrage and, for some, a desire to leave. For others, it’s created a renewed belief in the power of communities working together.
In a recent meeting of eight communities, a fellow East Atlanta Village community leader said it best: “All we want is to work in our flower beds and see our wives and children walk through the park without the fear of being shot to death by a stranger.” We like it here; we don’t want to leave. Especially under the terms of heartless thugs.
Mayor Kasim Reed is asking residents for help. Intown Atlanta residents are beginning to enact pragmatic approaches to answering the mayor’s call to action: Identify the leaders responsible, create report cards and progress reports, then kick, scream and vote until the murders stop and the gangs go.
In the most crime-infested areas in the United States, a novel approach to law enforcement is having success: Dedicated officers embed in community, becoming friends and confidants to the citizens. Once these cops become part of the community, the 99 percent of residents who are not bad guys begin to feel safe to report crime.
To sustain its goal of being the best major metropolitan city in the country to live in and do business, Atlanta must continue to find alternative revenue streams to fund solutions for crime prevention and treatment. The recent T-SPLOST failure confirmed that the rest of the state doesn’t care about Atlanta’s problems. Ideas for raising revenues, without increasing property taxes, include:
* Enforce traffic violations, including HOV lane “cheaters” and speeders on the Downtown Connector and in neighborhoods.
* Erect toll booths for access into the city, like London’s “Congestion Charge” tolls. A local resident exemption would put the cost burden on non-Atlantans and encourage green “live-where-you-work” housing construction.
* Increase and enforce fees for property owners who allow properties to remain vacant for more than two months.
* Include commercial vehicles in parking violations. New York City collected $2.1 million in fees from FedEx and UPS in the first quarter of 2013.
My neighbors and I are convinced there are too many great things and too many good people who live here around the Braves stadium and Zoo Atlanta for the bad guys to prevail. As I posted to our neighbor’s Facebook farewell above: “I’m an eternal optimist, and hold on to hope that our leaders will get their acts together and do the courageous things that have to be done. To do anything else is to let lawlessness prevail, and that signals the downfall of the greatest country the world has ever known.”
Jackson Faw is an activist in the Peoplestown community.