Buckhead Making Progress on Public Safety
By Jim Durrett, President & CEO of the Buckhead Coalition and Executive Director of the Buckhead CID
Last week, Zone 2’s Citizens Advisory Council, consisting of security representatives from Buckhead’s neighborhood civic associations, held its quarterly meeting with Atlanta Police Department’s Major Senzer. At these meetings, Major Senzer presents the public safety picture from APD’s perspective, then neighborhood representatives report on issues and concerns within their neighborhoods. That usually takes quite some time as the list of concerns is often lengthy – but at last week’s meeting, no issues or concerns were raised by any neighborhood representative.
That’s a small measure of success, but it is a notably different picture from where we were 18 months ago when I was invited to take the helm of the Buckhead Coalition. At that point, crime and anxiety about public safety were all-consuming. The night of May 29, 2020, saw vandalism and looting within the boundaries of the Buckhead Community Improvement District (CID). A short time later, aggressive water selling at Buckhead intersections had the community on edge. Gun violence was increasing. Many people were afraid to venture out for errands.
Many of the men and women in the Atlanta Police Department (APD) were demoralized by actions taken by the Fulton County District Attorney and the Atlanta Mayor. Many left the force. Arrests declined. But public and private sector interests, including the APD, came together in October of 2020 to see what could be done in partnership to address the increase in lawlessness in the Buckhead Community and the Buckhead Security Plan was launched.
Livable Buckhead and the Buckhead Rotary Club have partnered to provide appreciation cookouts for our officers in APD’s Zone 2, the Zone that covers all of Buckhead. The Buckhead CID has funded seven supplemental patrols staffed by off-duty APD officers, three in new police cruisers purchased by the CID and four on bicycles.
Simon Properties’ continued efforts to provide a safe environment and combat crime in the Buckhead community, where Lenox Square is located, are evident by the installation of a weapons detection system, their K-9 patrols and enhanced law enforcement personnel.
Dozens of new cameras and license plate readers have been added in Buckhead to the existing network of cameras monitored at the APD’s Video Integration Center.
APD’s Chief Bryant has committed to bringing another precinct to Buckhead to augment the Zone 2 precinct on Maple Drive and the mini-precinct housed at Lenox Square. A public-private partnership is working right now to locate and fund the build-out of the space.
So, where do things stand now in terms of crime? As much as I would like to say that serious crime is trending downward, that’s not yet the case but there are signs that APD is on a more proactive footing in Buckhead. Zone 2 is the only Zone with more arrests this year than last year – they are up 6%, while arrests are down 22% in the City of Atlanta as a whole. Traffic stops, one metric for how proactively officers are policing their zones, are up 30% in the City of Atlanta as a whole, while they are up 40% within Zone 2.
Last week, two of my colleagues were at Lenox Square. One called me to say that he observed robust foot traffic with lots of shopping bags in hand. That’s a good sign that people are beginning to feel safe in Buckhead again.
Are we out of the woods and where we want and need to be? No; there is still much work to be done and public safety is still priority number one. Are we heading in the right direction? Absolutely. With the best managed and top performing Zone in the City, and with the dedicated partnership of organizations and individuals I have the pleasure to work with day in and day out, I am certain bright days are ahead.