BCN Meeting Nov 10 Summary
6:45 – 7:00- Debra Wathen – Welcome and Announcements
I signed on around 7pm.
7:00 – 7:15
Gloria Cheatham – Recap of Mayor’s Town Hall and Call for unanswered questions so we can try and get answers.
Discussion of Affordable Housing, whether or not Dickens administration wishes to continue an agenda of increasing density in single family neighborhoods. I posed a question via zoom about the sustainability of ADU's in R4/R5 lots. Went unanswered. Dickens does not wish to further the Affordable Housing via increasing density of residential lots. He does want to convert Commercial properties to accommodate dense transit oriented residential stock. Whether or no that is ultimately "affordable" would be anyone's guess. After all, is it more affordable to rent or build one's long term financial health thru ownership? Most would say ownership. IMHO, this is my primary criticism of ADU's. They create tiny rental houses which will ultimately degrade into tiny slum shacks over time. Meanwhile, all those rental properties will devalue neighboring properties that can't also build ADU's in their own backyards. Never-mind the free for all on applications for zero lot line setbacks which allow the trees to be removed.
There was a long discussion about the pricing/fine structure established 2 yrs ago, which allegedly more or less encourages the removal of trees.
7:15 – 7:30
Mary Norwood and Valerie Sellers – Introduction of the Buckhead Safety Alliance
They annouced a new website https://buckheadsafety.org/
"Funding of The Buckhead Safety Alliance
These patrols will be funded by donation of individual residents, schools, restaurants, neighborhood associations, commercial offices, and retail establishments who come together to take a stand against crime in Buckhead."
"Neighborhoods working with off-duty police officers have had great success in reducing crime in our neighborhoods. At this juncture, focusing on our commercial corridors, the Atlanta Police Department’s Zone 2 command team has helped to identify five Buckhead retail and commercial corridors as needing Off-Duty Police Patrols.
The Buckhead Safety Alliance (BSA) will place off-duty officers in police cars patrolling these hardest-hit areas. They will be funded by BSA membership. BSA will extended invitations to individual residents, schools, restaurants, neighborhood associations, commercial offices, and retail establishments to come together to fund these patrols.
The patrols will be manned by active APD officers with full arrest power. These officers will actively patrol these commercial areas for criminal activity. Their focus will be solely on catching criminals and putting them behind bars. Additionally, we are confident that the high visibility of these patrols will add a further deterrent—effectively providing both reactive and preventive safety support to our community.
If a citizen calls 911 about an active car break-in, carjacking, theft or assault, the officer in that commercial area will respond to apprehend and arrest the criminal. Each patrol car will also have a cell phone dedicated to that specific corridor. Businesses in the area will be able to call the officer directly on this private line after calling 911.
Upon taking office in January 2022, Mary Norwood, District 8 Councilperson, submitted legislation forming the Buckhead Public Safety Task Force. Mary Norwood’s Task Force was chaired by former Atlanta Police Officer Valarie Sellers. Out of this task force came the recommendation for patrols in Buckhead’s commercial corridors where crime statistics have been the highest.
This recommendation directly aligns with the Buckhead Security Plan and the Patrols that are already implemented in the Buckhead CID. The Buckhead Safety Alliance has been formed to expand those patrols outside of the CID as a new piece of the Buckhead Security Plan. This Alliance was formed with the cooperation of APD Zone 2 Command Staff, the Atlanta Police Foundation, the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, the Taskforce and Buckhead CID, all with a common goal."
7:30 – 8:00
Peter Aman – Chief Administrative Officer of the Atlanta Police Department to tell us what improvements the City is making to Public Safety
911 has about 40 positions open. Takes 4-6 months to train. Aggressive hiring. Suggestion by BCN audience to provide childcare to attract/retain new hires. APD is taking injured/inactive officers to staff Dispatch desk, Dispatch operators are being moved to 911 since it only takes about 2 weeks to train from Dispatch to 911. Will cycle them back to Dispatch as new hires come online from training.
911 has a less than one minute average hold time, double it if it's a health response call. 911 must contact Grady to triage the caller, takes another avg 1.5 minutes to include the Grady contact, 911 operator must stay on call to facilitate the Grady contact and dispatch the results to appropriate responders.
New officers earn $48k/yr. We are still well behind hiring requirements. As more officers come online, less Overtime will need to be paid, decreasing the overall cost of officers, enabling hiring even more officers.
There is a Public/Citizen Police Academy. Audience members gushed about attending, and how useful the experience was for them.
I looked it up: https://www.atlantapd.org/community/citizen-police-academy
There has been significant improvements in police arrests, don't remember all the numbers, but sounded good. The numbers will likely be in the BCN minutes whenever they are posted.
8:00 – 8:15
Questions and Discussion
Much ado was made about the need for Buckhead to pay more than everywhere else for APD detail security patrols, like UHNA has. About 90% of the neighborhoods pay for security patrols. Some in audience went so far as to characterize it as a "racket", accusing APD of diminishing response effectiveness to create a market for the Patrols. That created some buzz in the room.
Someone piped up about how Buckhead already pays high taxes, especially for all the commercial properties which are adversely affected by crime. Between the CID revenues, the sales taxes, property taxes, hotel taxes, there is more than enough funding and justification to ramp up policing without leaving a need for surrounding neighborhoods to pay an additional de facto tax for Security Patrols, and now the "Buckhead Safety Alliance".
Another APD or City rep, maybe Valerie Sellers, fielded the criticism about Buckhead neighborhoods being overtaxed for services. Apparently, if she is reflecting the mindset of the City, the rest of the City that does not raise these extra funds to pay for extra services all have to deal with a much lower Quality of Service than is enjoyed in areas that do raise the extra money. She never did address the notion that ALL residents deserve equal treatment for services, and should not be able to, or need to, raise extra money to obtain better service.
IMHO the framework of using private money to get better services from the City and calling it a non-profit (parks) or a private Security service (Patrols) smacks of a shakedown by the City giving them every reason to diminish service unless an area does pay for extra services, such as Security Patrols. If I ran a private security firm such as Brinks or Pinkerton, I would have strong concerns over the APD competing with my company with public resources. I digress, but it's definitely a messy situation rife with possible Conflicts of Interest.
IMHO, there has been a long pattern of the City not reforming their activities to deliver the services they are mandated to deliver. As example, point to the the rise of 501c3 Friends of (InsertParkName). City taxes should already be managing the parks. Instead, a wave of 501c3 are absorbing charitable donations from other 501c3s to perform the services for parks that we already pay the City to perform. Something similar is going on with the APD and Security Patrols, and the accusation of intentionally racketeering may be a bit too much, but the status quo does leave the door open for the accusation to exist. Andre Dickens does appear to be moving along favorable directions.