Atlanta opens new fire, police station at time concerns for public safety appear low, off campaign agenda
By David Pendered
Atlanta has opened its newest facility in the city’s never-ending quest to improve public safety and promote neighborhood cohesion.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed presided over the ribbon cutting ceremony on June 6, the 69th anniversary of D-Day. Reed sounded little like a candidate for reelection, and a lot like a community leader, as he summed up a wide array of interests that are bound up in the new Fire Station No. 28.
“A building like this should represent the best version of ourselves,” Reed concluded. “God bless you. It’s only going to get better in the city of Atlanta.”
Nowhere in any of the speeches was there mention of the need to reclaim streets from thugs, nor were there comments about getting fire trucks to a burning house in time to save it. No one in the audience sounded off.
Public safety has yet to awaken as an issue in this fall’s municipal elections, in which the mayor, council president and each councilperson is up for reelection or voluntary retirement.
Crime along some trails of the Atlanta Beltline has garnered attention, as has the trend of petty thefts that includes those council President Ceasar Mitchell calls “apple picking,” in reference to the theft of iPhones.
But the velocity of public discussion about public safety has waned since the days of daytime robberies in some neighborhoods around Georgia Tech, and when a few houses burned amid complaints of slow engine response. The call to raise police salaries has drawn less attention than the prospect of Atlanta finally reaching a long-term goal of having 2,000 sworn officers – which itself hasn’t been touted.
The city’s reported crime stats show Atlanta’s rate of the eight serious crimes tracked by the FBI is up 1 percent now compared to the same date last year. That represents an increase of 99 incidents compared to the 12,998 serious criminal acts committed citywide as of June 1, 2012.
Atlanta’s self-reported stats show the number of most crimes against individuals is down compared to June 1 of last year, including number of reported murders, rapes and aggravated assaults. Robbery is up 20 percent, and robbery is defined as the threat or use of violence to take something of value. The number of reported burglaries and auto thefts are up 6 percent and 7 percent, respectively.
In this context, the celebration at the city’s newest fire station was just that – a celebration. City officials took a moment to remember good deeds of the past and express hope for the future when they cut the ribbon at the facility located at 1925 Hollywood Road, in Councilperson Felicia Moore’s district.
The building was dedicated to Arthur Kaplan, the longtime municipal court judge who volunteered in his free time as an EMT and trained thousands of police officers in rescue procedures. Kaplan retired in 2000 and died in 2010. Kaplan’s son, Ron Kaplan, accepted the recognition on behalf of other family members in the audience.
Trevor Boylan, who chairs the security patrol of the Riverside Neighborhood Association, where Fire Station No. 28 is located, said the new facility means a lot to the neighborhood. In just one example, he said the RNA no longer will have to meet at the old fire station – where the trucks were moved out of the garage to make room for seating.
That’s because Fire Station No. 28 is Atlanta’s first public safety building to house a room for community events. This space is intended to make the facility a gathering spot akin to the Centers of Hope initiative, in which Atlanta reopened recreation centers to provide safe zones for children and young adults.