I. Welcome & Introductions
Chair Tom Tidwell called the meeting to order at about 6:45 PM. A quorum was present.
II. Approval of Minutes
Minutes for the January meeting were approved.
III. Admit New Member Neighborhoods
No neighborhoods asked to be considered for BCN membership.
IV. NPU Update
Zack Gober, Chair NPU-C
Tom Tidwell said he intended a have series of updates from Buckhead’s NPUs, starting this meeting with NPU-C.
Zack introduced himself and said if anyone had questions about NPU-C, he can be contacted at 404-931-7887.
He described NPU-C as being in northwest Buckhead, close to Cobb County. He said they have new City Council members for District 8 and 9. He said their area is mainly residential but has some commercial areas.
One of NPU-C’s big projects now is called “Connect to Comet”, a trail that would connect from the Beltline, around Huff Road and the Waterworks, to the Silver Comet trail in Cobb County.
He said that their area’s main issues are safety and traffic. He said they have some issues with petty crime but that the school system is phenomenal.
He said Bobby Jones Golf Course is also in NPU-C and that the state took ownership of it. He added that while there were some issues with trees cut down there, it should be done by the fall of this year.
V. Security Cameras
- Major John Quigley, APD’s executive Officer for Strategy and Special Projects Division
- Garrett Langley, Flock Security, CEO
- Jonathan Bozeman, Georgia Power Lighting
- Michael Alexander, Pine Hills
- Gordon Certain, North Buckhead
The topic of security cameras is very popular. The attendance at this BCN meeting was considerably larger than usual.
Major John Quigley, APD Strategy and Special Projects Division, led off the session on security cameras. He said part of his job it to oversee the Video Integration Center (VIC). He is also responsible for crime analysis, accreditation, capital improvements, and technology. He said the VIC currently has about 10,400 cameras integrated into it. Over 4,000 of those cameras are from Atlanta Public Schools. About 400 are from Mercedes Benz stadium and many from Lenox Mall, Georgia Tech, etc. APD owns 720 of the cameras, half of which are license plate readers (LPR); 230 of the cameras are in Buckhead. APD is in partnership with the Atlanta Police Foundation, with projects in Council Districts 7, 8 and 9. They have been involved in projects in Argonne Forest, Peachtree Hills, and the Habersham Buckhead Condos on Old Ivy Road. Some purchases are also being made on Cave Road. He said that Renew Atlanta is funding 11 LPRs in Buckhead.
He said APD’s goal is to take the VIC from being a situational awareness platform to a real-time crime-fighting platform. He said they hope to be alerted “ahead of time” with LPRs notifying them that a tag the system spots is stolen; or to take the tag number of a car involved in a crime and identify the owner and the vehicle’s recent travel history around the city, to help solve crimes.
He said they need to move to analytics – they are working with Microsoft to watch parking lots at fire stations. The analytics will tell APD when someone is there who shouldn’t be there and keep car break-ins from happening. Then, that kind of software can be deployed to other parking lots, enabling APD to know when someone is “checking cars”. He said they can’t watch all 10,000 cameras at once, but with analytics, they can be alerted when something is wrong. Similarly, if someone leaves a package unattended at the Atlanta Airport, APD will be alerted. Those sorts of improvements will make the platform smarter.
When introducing Major Quigley, Tom Tidwell mentioned APD’s “shot spotter”. Quigley outlined that project. Georgia Power has funded a one-year pilot shot spotter. It is an acoustic system that is “listening” for gunshots in a five-square-mile area extending from northwest Atlanta to southwest Atlanta: Mechanicsville, Pittsburg over to Castleberry Hill. When a gunshot is detected, it takes 30 to 45 seconds to notify the mobile data terminal in the police car, telling the officer exactly where the gun was fired. It tells them how many types of weapons were fired. how many shots were fired, and the location on Google maps. Last year, 1,100 shots were fired in that five-mile area with 119 people suffering wounds. They are trying to reduce those numbers. He said that New York City has sixty square miles of shots fired detection surveillance.
He said he also works with APD’s “body-worn cameras”, saying they have 860 deployed. All officers responding to 911 calls have these cameras, as do officers working on “Path Force” and license and permits. They don’t have cameras on motorcycles, mounted patrol, or narcotics yet – but “they will get there”. Seventy officers are equipped with sensors which turn on the camera when the officer pulls their gun from its holster – all officers with body cameras should be similarly equipped by the end of the year. He said the cameras “buffer” two minutes of recordings, so the events that lead to the gun being pulled are captured, though the audio doesn’t get recorded until the gun is pulled. Similar switches are planned for Tasers when they are deployed. He said his near-term goal is to prepare his cameras in the Downtown area for the next Super Bowl.
In response to questions, Quigley said that much of the funding from new cameras is coming from the Renew Atlanta bond and from donations from Councilmembers’ office budgets.
Another audience member asked if their high-rise’s camera recording tag numbers leaving their deck could be attached to APD’s tag tracking system. Quigley said that depends on what kind of system is being used. If it is not a Genentech video format, it won’t communicate to APD’s system. He said that one of the reasons they are partnering with Georgia Power’s camera offerings is that they are compatible. He said it can be very expensive to retrofit a camera system to interface with APD’s system. He added that ultimately, they are seeking what he called “federation” – he wants DeKalb County and Atlanta to be able to seamlessly share cameras. He said, “Their criminals are my criminals.” He said Genentech is the key because it offers that federation to law enforcement. Quigley added that APD’s “PSIM” integrates their cameras and their 911 calls. When a caller calls 911, the four closest cameras “come up”. He said PSIM costs $20 per camera per year after paying an initial $100+ fee. With 10,000 cameras, he said he is paying a lot of money for PSIM. He said that’s why they want to standardize on Genentech.
Questions: Who do we call if an APD camera is not working, for instance, if the blue light is out? Quigley said to call 911. Several in the audience reported specific cameras that were not working. (We got an email from Quigley the next day saying those cameras had been fixed.) He added that the 911 center and VIC are collocated and that he would be glad to set up a tour of the VIC and 911 center for BCN.
Question: How long is data retained: Quigley: VIC camera data is retained for just 14 days. Body camera data is retained for 180 days in accordance with state law.
Major Quigley’s Contact Information:
Police Major John P. Quigley, Strategy & Special Projects Division, APD
Cell 404-852-4009, JQuigley@AtlantaGa.Gov
Jim Elgar, who up until this year worked for City Council President Ceasar Mitchell and now works in the office of District 8 City Councilmember JP Matzigkeit spoke briefly. He showed a map of cameras already installed and those planned in City Council District 8. Jim spoke about Yolanda Adrean (District 8’s former Councilmember) and her efforts to use her office budget sparingly so she could provide funding in her district. He said that her funds could not be carried over after she left office, so all of the remainder was spent last year on cameras. That means that District 8 funding Councilmember Matzigkeit’s funding to help with cameras will be limited until time passes and some money can be saved.
During Jim’s discussion, the question of the current cost of APD cameras came up. An attendee who said she was with the Atlanta Police Foundation (name not apparent on the sign-in sheet) said the current prices are $13,500 for a video camera and $14,500 for an LPR. Since the Atlanta Police Foundation is a non-profit, contributions to help get cameras installed, if made through them, maybe a tax deduction for the donor.
Garrett Langley, Flock Security, CEO, spoke next. He lives in Peachtree Heights East near the Duck Pond. He reported that a couple of years ago there were a rash of crimes nearby and he wondered what his neighborhood could do and why security cameras in use cost so much. He had been involved in several startups as a Georgia Tech electrical engineer. He contacted another engineer he had worked with in another start-up and they brainstormed what might be done for neighborhood security that would be effective but not so expensive. What they decided to do was to design and build a camera meant for neighborhoods. He said they wanted a design that blended into the neighborhood, so it didn’t feel like there were cameras everywhere. There would be signage, so criminals would know that there were cameras in the area. They realized that the major contributor to security camera cost was infrastructure – getting power to the camera and getting images out to the internet or to a storage device. The camera they designed was solar powered with battery storage and was connected to the cellphone network. They also wanted their cameras to look modern. Their camera is small and is mounted on a pole, 7 to 15 feet above the ground with an approximately one-square-foot solar panel.
They wanted a system affordable enough that neighborhoods would be able to put cameras on every neighborhood street. He said, if you only have cameras on neighborhood entrances, you’ll have no idea who committed a crime. Incidentally, Flock provides support for a “safe list” for neighbors who simply don’t want to be tracked.
Langley said that in Peachtree Park, which averages 3,000 vehicles a day, they do have a camera on every single street. In December, when a break-in happened on Burke Drive, they had a list of every car that had been on that street within that hour: there were just ten of them. They knew the suspect’s vehicle was red and that it was a mini-van. The information was given to the police and 24 hours later the two burglars were in jail. These events were covered in this WSB-TV broadcast news report.
He said that Peachtree Park has 13 cameras, for which they pay about $15,000 a year. He added that they are also working to get their system able to be integrated into the VIC. He also commented that they use their own poles for their cameras and do not put their cameras on electrical/telephone poles. Their system retains all data for thirty days and then it is automatically erased. He added that they monitor cameras by software and if a camera goes down, they will know immediately and will send a technician to repair it. Their camera’s price, including connectivity to the cloud and cloud services is $1500 per year with a 24-month contract.
Flock’s philosophy is the neighborhood should own the data. Many neighborhoods have a single security chair who functions as the system’s gatekeeper. If a crime happens and the victim files a police report, the security chair can “pull the footage” and information about every car on that street near the time the crime happened can be given to the police officer. In some cases, such as the burglary victim on Burke, she was given 24 hours of temporary access to the neighborhood’s footage. While the police department may be busy, giving the tools to the victim can be an effective way to get the needed research done.
Langley said this software demo related to the Peachtree Park incident available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZnLueXp1tc&feature=youtu.be provides information about how their system can be used. In the case of Peachtree Park, they knew the time the crime happened within a two-hour period and they knew the vehicle was a truck or mini-van, so they were able to query the system to show only relevant pictures and data for Burke Drive. They also support queries of partial license plate numbers. The system can also respond to queries about dogs and pedestrians.
Jonathan Bozeman, Georgia Power Lighting, Jonathan said a lot of people when they think of Georgia Power, think of electricity and street lights. But Georgia Power also provides their “Sight View” security camera services statewide. The equipment they use in Atlanta is the exact same kind of Genentech software as is used by APD. Fe said they have about forty different camera models, ranging from 720p up to 30-megapixels. Camera cost ranges from $150 to $300 per month with a 36-month contract.
He said they don’t use solar power and since they are in the electricity business, they can get the power to their cameras anywhere.
Their cameras are connected to the Internet and can be accessed from anywhere. They either use Verizon 4G cell phone connections or, where available, Comcast cable or Google Fiber. Their camera data is stored in the camera until it can be transmitted to the Internet, so camera data is not lost if the Internet is down. There is no battery backup in the cameras, so if the electricity goes out, the camera goes out. Electricity is provided directly by Georgia Power and does not require a meter.
Speaking about the camera’s transparent dome, he said that it is difficult to figure out which way the camera is pointing. This helps deter people everywhere around the camera and not just those at which the camera is pointed. Domes can have as many as four cameras inside, providing up to 360-degree coverage. He said they typically don’t use pan/tilt/zoom cameras in neighborhoods since information outside the field of view is lost.
As for examples of Georgia Power security cameras, Bozman suggested the closest examples might be at the Brookhaven MARTA station. He said they have LPRs throughout Brookhaven. He said their Brookhaven LPRs have a 5-second detection time to notify Brookhaven police officers of Amber Alert tags.
Jonathan Bozeman’s Contact Information:
Jonathan Bozeman email@example.com
Michael Alexander, Pine Hills. Michael handles the security patrols which work rotating shifts of in Pine Hills three to five hours per day. He said their association currently has about 200 members, a number they are seeking to increase. When they reach 290 members Pine Hills plans to start installing cameras.
A neighborhood survey indicated equal interest in security patrols and security cameras. That surprised Michael since he thought that the presence of police officers had been effective in stopping or addressing crime while cameras tended to be an after-the-fact tool.
Under their security patrol arrangements, every resident benefits and members also have the benefit of having their homes checked while they are out of town. Their plan for cameras would be to limit their camera’s use to members of the association, an incentive to join and help finance the cameras.
Marie Tvaroch, Pine Hills Neighborhood Association Secretary, added that they have been working on the camera plan for two years. They established a Security Committee which worked closely with the Atlanta Police Foundation and have worked with both Georgia Power and Flock Safety. Their analysis identified where their crime areas are, information they used to determine where to locate cameras. They identified ten locations. They are working to insure funding for the camera project which should be achieved when they reach 290 members.
Michael noted that a majority of their neighborhood is in Atlanta, some of it is in Brookhaven. This means they work with two different police departments. Both Brookhaven and Atlanta are installing LPRs in their neighborhood. The neighborhood’s focus, then, is on surveillance cameras.
Gordon Certain, President of North Buckhead Civic Association. Gordon outlined North Buckhead’s interest for the past several years in security cameras. He pointed out that North Buckhead is very large, with 100+ different street names and over forty entry/exit points. It experiences over 50,000 vehicles a day inside the neighborhood. APD already has many cameras, especially LPRs, installed or planned on the neighborhood’s perimeter, affording the neighborhood protection from drivers of stolen cars and otherwise known suspects. Those facts make it unproductive for the neighborhood to attempt to provide additional security by placing more cameras on the neighborhood’s perimeter.
Instead, North Buckhead’s neighborhood security camera plan is to break the interior of the neighborhood into cells, areas involving one or a few streets. Each cell would have a limited number of entry and exit points. Further, given the fact that thieves will typically leave the area quickly after committing a crime, the focus of the camera system will be to capture the tag numbers, type, and color of vehicles exiting a security camera cell. The time a crime occurs would be used to query the camera system’s data to identify suspect vehicles, information that would be provided to the police. Since the cells would be relatively small, a limited number of vehicles would likely be involved for most crimes.
Plans have been developed which lay out cells in North Buckhead’s primarily residential areas. These plans suggest that a dozen cells could economically protect about 3,000 single-family homes, low-rise condominiums, and apartment units. This coverage would represent approximately 80% to 90% of the residential area. Streets such as Wieuca Road and Peachtree Dunwoody Road with high traffic volumes may not be covered since they are hard to fit into a cell-oriented model.
Two pilot projects have been approved by North Buckhead’s board. Both involve dead-end street areas. Pilot #1 is Ivy Road, south of Old Ivy Road. It would need one Flock camera to protect 140 homes and condominiums. The six named streets included in this pilot are shown in red in the image at the right.
A second pilot has evolved slightly since the BCN meeting. It still involves Alexander Road, across Phipps Boulevard from the back side of Phipps Plaza. But, since it has a two-lane exit (not one lane as originally thought), it will require two Flock cameras to protect about 1,000 condominium and apartment units. (The figure at the right shows earlier data.)
North Buckhead has funding available to undertake these pilot camera projects and expects to do so in the next several months. They should provide valuable experience while also providing some neighborhood residents with very low-cost protection (up to $11 per housing unit per year). Once experience with these pilot projects has been digested, North Buckhead will implement more complex cells, some involving six or more cameras, and higher (but still affordable) cost per housing unit protected.
VI. Other Business -Property Tax Update
Tom commented that he expects that little progress can be made with the property tax situation and that Fulton County will face the same situation in 2018 that it did last year.
Beth Beskin, Georgia House of Representatives, District 54. Beth Beskin said she has introduced HB 820, Fulton County 2017/2018 Fix. She has had a hearing in the Ways and Means Subcommittee about her bill which would provide that whenever the Commissioner of Revenue has rejected a tax digest and there is a temporary collection order in place (all of which happened last year in Fulton), the bills that were sent out that year would be sent out the following year. The bill would sunset in 2020 and would only affect Fulton even though it would be a state-wide bill. She thinks this approach would survive litigation and solve Fulton’s 2018 problem. She added that there is a possibility that we in Fulton could get an “addendum” to our 2017 “temporary tax bill” and possibly a higher 2018 bill. She is “slightly optimistic” that her HB820 could help.
Last year, most of the Atlanta City Council supported a resolution for a Frozen Homestead Exemption to limit City and APS property taxes from increasing by more than 3% per year. This approach is used by Fulton County and Sandy Springs, likely to be joined by a vote in November by north Fulton cities. She submitted a bill to do the same for Atlanta and APS, but needs help from more of the Atlanta Delegation. She asked us to contact them.
VII. Community Concerns I New Business / Announcements
Note that BCN dues are now payable for 2018. Neighborhoods should mail a $100 check, payable to the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods to:
PO Box 420391
Atlanta, GA 30342
VIII. Next Meetings
Next BCN Board Meeting: March 8, with Planning Commissioner Tim Keane
Tom also wants to invite the area’s new City Councilmembers (J. P. Matzigkeit, Dustin Hills, Matt Westmoreland, Jennifer Ide) as well as State Senator Jen Jordan to future BCN meetings. Tom is also working on having Mayor Bottoms and the Beltline’s Brian McGowan to participate in future BCN meetings. Please invite your neighbor to attend these sessions.
The meeting adjourned at about 8:45 PM.