The first portion of this month’s regular meeting of the VHCA held on April 13th was devoted to a special discussion of neighborhood safety. District 6 Councilperson Alex Wan (who organized the meeting and arranged the speakers), APD Asst. Chief Shawn Jones, Deputy Chief Joseph Spillane, Zone 6 Commander Timothy Peek, and other officers made presentations, listened to resident concerns, and spent over an hour answering a wide range of questions.
While acknowledging the well-publicized instances of violent crime in and around Beat 601 that have caught everyone’s attention, the presenters pointed out that violent crime – murders, rapes, robberies and burglaries – is down in our beat when compared with last year, which itself had low numbers. What is not down is the level of vehicle break-ins; officers encouraged residents and visitors to remove anything of value from parked cars and pointed out that among the items stolen from cars recently were seven handguns.
One resident pointed out that her knowledge of crime came at least in part from social media and asked about actual statistics. VHCA Safety Chair Peggy Berg and Board member Jess Windham graphed the last six years of stats for Beat 601 (solely and entirely composed of VaHi) and prepared and distributed a handout of those numbers at the meeting. (They may be viewed here on our website, and we will update them monthly as we receive new data from APD.)
The officials thanked residents who told stories of calling 911 when they saw something suspicious, and encouraged everyone in attendance to do the same if they find themselves in a similar situation. They explained the priority system that governs response to calls and provided average response times for all categories. They reminded, urged, and pled with citizens not to intervene in crimes being committed, but to call APD.
Officials also commented that common traits of neighborhoods that effectively fight crime are neighborhood watches like the two-decade old one in VaHi. If you are not currently connected with your local Street Captain, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Several speakers were critical of the county role in dealing with juvenile offenders and thought sentences were too light. Another viewed the problem of keeping criminals off the street as a multifaceted one. Police, prosecutors, judges, and the state (which runs prisons) all have a role in ensuring that the most dangerous and predatory of criminals are successfully caught, prosecuted, and incarcerated.
What was abundantly clear is that APD is highly informed as to the location and frequency of crimes, with data coming in and being analyzed constantly. The department’s ability and willingness to respond and shift resources around on an hourly and daily basis was impressive.
We appreciate the time and energy that the whole department expends on this effort, and the presentation ended with a warm ovation from neighbors. We thank all those at APD and Councilmember Wan for the work they do and for making the evening possible.
Click here to view a video of the meeting in its entirety.
Click here for information on participating in the CourtWatch program.
Click here for a link to the Christian Science Monitor article on the Atlanta Police Department referenced by a resident who spoke at the meeting.