Photos courtesy of Kay Stephenson.
Virginia-Highland resident, former VHCA board member and VaHi Safety Team director John Wolfinger has been named APD and Atlanta Police Foundation Citizen of the Year for 2013. Wolfinger was presented with a plaque by Mayor Kasim Reed and APD Chief George Turner at the foundation’s annual “Crime is Toast” Breakfast held September 24 at the Georgia World Congress Center.
Wolfinger was recognized for his leadership in building VaHi’s public safety network, which serves as a model for similar programs in other Atlanta neighborhoods. Now retired, much of this work was done while Wolfinger served on the VHCA board, chairing the Safety Committee. Also mentioned was Wolfinger’s implementation of a unique program that allows residents to have packages delivered to local businesses when they aren’t at home to receive them in person. Packages left unattended on a doorstep can alert potential thieves to the fact that there might be no one home, increasing the likelihood the home will be burglarized.
The presentation to Wolfinger came at the end of an emotional ceremony that included the awarding of Purple Hearts to two officers wounded this year in the line of duty, and a memorial tribute for Officers Richard Halford and Shawn Smiley who were killed in a helicopter crash earlier this year while searching for a missing child.
“I’m still in awe that I was picked out of public safety geeks from all over Atlanta to be honored” Wolfinger commented. “My selection, though, is really a tribute to all our dedicated Street Captains, and the citizens from their watch areas who really make the Safety Team function every day in some way. The unselfish teamwork in Virginia-Highland is what has made our neighborhood watch system the largest and most active in the city, and what many other neighborhoods are striving to achieve. I’m the first to admit that our system isn’t perfect. For example, our fluid population makes it close to impossible to reach everyone with the Safety Reports. Unfortunately, we’re just not reaching so many of our young renters who don’t stay at the same address for very long. Often times these folks just don’t get to know their neighbors well and so they remain the ones who are very often the victims of crime.”
“The Crime is Toast breakfast also reminded me that even though we are in a big city,” Wolfinger continued, “Atlanta is also very much like a small town, as I saw quite a few police officers and civilians I know from all over the city. Everyone who attended has a keen interest in helping APD become a better force and advancing safety efforts in their own neighborhoods and businesses. The powerful force that the Atlanta Police Foundation has become has been a unifying agent in connecting the business community with APD for better overall safety practices in the city.”
We know we speak for everyone in Virginia-Highland when we say a heartfelt thank-you to John for all he’s done for our community.