By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Sept. 30, 2016
The Atlanta Police Foundation, in partnership with several public and private entities, will be playing a major role in improving the lives of people living in the west side Atlanta communities.
The foundation has a multi-pronged effort underway in the communities of Vine City and English Avenue to address many of the public safety and community policing issues affecting the area.
The foundation recently took members of its board and other guests on a bus tour of three major initiatives already underway.
First, Marlon Trone, the foundation’s vice president of programs, pointed out new security cameras that have been installed throughout the community — 120 in all. Already, that effort has helped reduce crime in low-income neighborhoods.
One of the major initiatives is building homes for Atlanta police officers to be able to live in the community and build relationships with their neighbors.
Five houses are currently under construction by Pulte Homes along James Brawley Boulevard. They are the first phase of what the foundation hopes will be a total of 20 to 25 homes for police officers in the two neighborhoods.
“We had 41 officers apply for these five homes,” said Dave Wilkinson, president of the Atlanta Police Foundation. “Pulte is building these homes at $60 a square foot — at cost. The officers will pay $130,000 to $140,000 per home, which are valued at $200,000.”
In return for living in those homes, officers will have extra duties to build community relationships and mentor young people.
For Jason Bain, one of the officers selected to live in the first five houses, said it “will be a major upgrade” for his family, including his two children. He’s already begun to see improvements in the community.
“I’ve been working here for most of the nine years I’ve been with the department,” Bain said. “My kids already know the neighborhood. There’s a lot of growth.”
Only 24 percent of APD’s officers live in the city, and the idea is to make living in the city more affordable. In return, officers bring a feeling of safety to a community and they can build meaningful relationships with the residents.
The next major initiative is providing housing for APD recruits.
The foundation is working with Preferred Apartment Communities, and its CEO John Williams, to renovate a vacant apartment complex at 750 North Ave. in English Avenue.
“Recruiting has become more and more difficult,” Wilkinson said. “There are 150 vacancies, and the Atlanta Police Department is going to be hiring about 300 officers per year. They can’t afford a place to live while they’re in the (police) academy.”
So the apartments, with the help of City Councilman Andre Dickens, are going to be renovated into upscale dorms. Work should begin early next year.
“By next October or November, we would love to have it up and running for recruits,” Wilkinson said. “It will house between 48 and 60 recruits in the two apartment buildings.”
Wilkinson said the rent should end up being about $200 a month, and in return, the officers-in-training also will be building relationships.
“It’s about living in the community,” he said. “These guys also are going to be working at the youth center.”
Just a couple of blocks away — in a long-vacant Head Start center at 740 Cameron Alexander Blvd. — the Promise Youth Center is about to be created by the APF and partner, real estate firm Carter.