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Thought Leadership Views From Peachtree

Looking at Public Safety in Buckhead: Q&A with Major Mitchell of APD Zone 2

By Jim Durrett, President of Buckhead Coalition and Executive Director of Buckhead Community Improvement District, and Major Ailen Mitchell, APD Zone 2 Commander

From the moment I was given the helm of the Buckhead Community Improvement District (BCID) in 2009, I have gotten to know many of the fine men and women of the Atlanta Police Department (APD). Over the next 13 years, my relationships have deepened and today the BCID and the Buckhead Coalition have developed a close collaboration with the APD, especially its Zone 2, built upon trust and respect. With the 2022 buildout and staffing of the APD’s satellite precinct in the Buckhead Village, that collaboration became apparent to all as both Governor Kemp and Mayor Dickens joined us for the opening. Today, Major Ailen Mitchell serves as the Zone 2 Commander, and I wanted to give the readers of this column the opportunity to get to know him, so I sat down with him last week for a chat.

Jim Durrett: How long have you been in the role of Zone 2 commander? In that time, what have been some of your first successes where you felt like you were going in the right direction?

Major Mitchell: Since April 2022, I’ve been the commander of Zone 2 which handles all operations in the Buckhead area. In those 10 months, some of my first successes were the opening of the satellite precinct in Buckhead Village, installing the new bike patrol unit and housing two traffic units at this location. 

JD: Can you help us understand how traffic patrols benefit public safety?

MM: On any given day, there is a huge influx of people in Buckhead who are commuting for work and visiting the retail, restaurant and entertainment district, which leads to traffic backups and incidents. Since a typical traffic stop can account for nearly an hour each time, that is an hour of which the officer is out of service to stop crimes from happening. 

We analyzed this data and identified a need to have officers dedicated exclusively to handling traffic accidents and stranded motorists while other officers can proactively police and stop crime. This allows for more efficient responses and more officers with time to handle traffic enforcement which could in turn lead to deterring crimes before they even happen. 

JD: Clearly, the fact that your zone led the city in crime reduction for the second consecutive year is a huge validation of your work and the work of your officers. Can you share how you proactively reached out to the bars and clubs about the impact of patrons’ behaviors on safety in these environments?

MM: I’ve been working in Zone 2 since 2014 as a sergeant, lieutenant, captain and now a major which gives me the unique position to know Buckhead and its challenges. But I also know the positives of Buckhead. 

We want the businesses to do well since it provides jobs and helps the economy, but our job is to make sure that it’s safe for patrons to enjoy. For this reason, I collaborated with bar and restaurant owners to make a game plan for the summer increase of traffic and to hear their concerns and identify solutions. 

Following this meeting, our crime suppression team increased foot patrols and partnered with off-duty patrols hired by the owners. Due to these measures, we didn’t have a single violent incident all summer, so clearly it was a success. I am still continuing to have discussions with these owners and cultivate this partnership to help Buckhead visitors and residents. 

JD: In terms of the satellite precinct, do you think having a physical presence in that part of Buckhead has made a difference in crime suppression and a feeling of safety for those who live and work in the area?

MM: Having the data is one thing, but people’s perception is another. The goal is to not only have Buckhead be safe, but for people to feel safe. That new precinct’s presence has made a huge difference. I’ve had citizens tell me that they’ve seen the bike officers and officers walking in and out of the building which makes them feel safer. While it might not be that there are more police on the streets, we’ve strategically placed officers to be more visible to both residents and criminals which helps people feel that they are safe.

JD: We’ve been talking about your successes and wins for Buckhead. Let’s talk about some of the challenges that you’re dealing with and opportunities to deal with those challenges. 

MM: One of our challenges is tracking repeat offenders, so we are constantly working with the court system and programs like the Repeat Offender Tracking Unit to address these concerns.

Another challenge is homelessness in our community. To address these concerns from citizens and officers alike, we’re exploring opportunities in the community with outreach programs to help those who are homeless and help those with mental illnesses. 

JD: Can you share some ways that Zone 2 engages with the community through the Buckhead Citizens Advisory Council and the Citizens Police Academy?

MM: Interacting with the community improves problem-solving, relationship building and idea generation. We have a few programs that can help citizens understand the day-to-day activities of an officer and get educated on everything from 9-1-1 response procedures to training demonstrations. 

The Buckhead Citizens Advisory Council aims to hear citizens’ concerns and share how they can help via donating to our partners like the Atlanta Police Foundation, creating neighborhood patrols or hiring off-duty officers for their area. The Citizens Police Academy offers citizens the chance to experience simulations of dangerous circumstances and showcase operations and resources used by officers. Finally, we have the Connect Atlanta program which allows citizens and businesses to notify Zone 2 officers about their security cameras. This knowledge provides officers with an opportunity to request footage from the owner to assist in solving crimes. 

JD: Is there anything else that you’d like to add about your work in the Buckhead community?

MM: We’ve covered so many great points, but I want to thank the citizens of Zone 2 and Buckhead for their support. 

Community engagement directly contributes to public safety. From the support from our partners like the Buckhead CID, Buckhead Coalition, Cousins Properties and several others to organizations providing encouragement like meal donations and thank you cards, this support boosts our officers’ morale. When they are happy, they are working harder than ever to keep everyone safe.

We know that our officers make a difference, and we are supported in the community. I’m proud to protect Buckhead and so are my officers.

JD: Thank you, Major Mitchell.

This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.


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  1. I agree with Mr. Wilkinson and Mayor Dickens in that the best way to protect Buckhead and all our stuff is to put the Public Safety Training Center right here in the heart of Buckhead. We want the police to protect our McMansions, our giant SUVs, our golf courses, our pools, and our beloved Lenox Mall. I don’t have any problems with the sounds of gunshots coming from an outdoor firing range right next to the mall, in fact, I think this would actually make me feel safer. The bomb detonations and the burn building would really add to the high quality shopping experience we expect at our top of the line mall. I don’t think that we need any public input at all on this relocation since APF doesn’t usually do public input anyways. After all, they are a private group that’s not accountable to democratic oversight by the city or public decision making. I believe police need the best training possible, which is why they should train right at the location of where we keep all our precious stuff instead of far away in a low class neighborhood. Today, I would like to announce our proposal to change the name of Buckhead City to Buckhead Cop City instead. With the help of sponsors like Norfolk Southern, who truly believes in the safety of workers and our environment, we can make Buckhead Cop City!Report


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