I. Welcome & Introductions
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 new neighborhoods asked to be admitted to BCN.
VI. Committee and Liaison Updates
- No report.
- Tom Tidwell reported that the Morris Brandon principal was not being retained for next year. A replacement should be selected by June. Three potential candidates remain for APS superintendent. Tom expects the new superintendent will be announced in early April. Yolanda Adrean has drafted legislation to address the use of public school property. That ordinance will be routed to all NPUs for comment.
- Did not meet. No report.
- No report.
- Gordon Certain introduced Peter Canalichio of Southeastern Horticultural Society which is planning its annual Garden Show for the first time in Buckhead at the Buckhead Theater on April 25-27. In previous years the event was held at the Galleria. See the Garden Show Handout.
Major Van Hobbs, APD Zone 2 Commander – Major Hobbs said that while we have heard a lot about robberies, Zone 2 is actually down 12% in robberies so far this year. He said that Buckhead is a lightning rod and robberies here get a lot of press coverage. He said that there were three of four robberies that seem to be related. He said they were the type of robberies where people were coming home, pulling into their driveways, not paying a lot of attention to their surroundings. He said the robbers don’t live up here; they are driving up here. He said they have made several arrests, including one the day before involving a carjacking. He said DeKalb made three arrests, noting that bad guys don’t pay attention to city/county borders.
Hobbs pointed out that some “robberies” have to be reported that way because of FBI guidelines, but can’t practically be prosecuted that way. Example: boyfriend and girlfriend get into an argument; he pushes her down and takes her cell phone. Because he used force to take the cell phone, it must be reported as a robbery under UCR (presumably, uniform crime reporting) guidelines. APD arrested the boyfriend on scene for theft by taking and simple battery for hitting her. He said that the Fulton DA’s office can’t prosecute the case as a robbery because the “elements” aren’t there. Another example is “elevated shoplifting”: someone goes into a store, takes something and gets into a tussle with loss prevention – robbery. Even though Hobbs can’t charge him with robbery, it will show on crime statistics as a robbery, not shoplifting. Still, we do have people who come up here and actually rob people.
Hobbs outlined a change in the use of Zone 2 resources to drive robberies down. He said most police zones have a unit called “field investigative teams” (FIT). They wear plain clothes. But Zone 2 doesn’t have the problems that other zones have: we don’t have door-to-door drug sales, and we don’t have the “quality of life issues” that other zones have due to homeless populations. Hobbs and staff watched over a four month period and saw that when more traffic citations and “contacts” (people stopped and warned, but no citation) were written, there was less crime. This is because the bad guys are driving up here and if they see a lot of police activity they go somewhere else. With this insight, Hobbs has redeployed his FIT personnel to do traffic patrols on the most likely routes the bad guys take to come up here. They just do patrols and don’t answer 911 calls or handle wrecks. He expects the flashing blue lights will result in significantly fewer robberies and car break-ins. He said it doesn’t mean that everybody they pull over will get a ticket.
In the first full week of this new setup, the zone wrote 958 traffic citations of which 459 were written by FIT officers. They also got a stolen car with three perps from Zone 4, another stolen car with another three perps, and “last night” they got another stolen car with its people.
He continued by saying that people need to be more vigilant about their surroundings. If you see something that “just doesn’t feel right”, you should call 911. He said if the police are called to investigate a suspicious vehicle, a robbery may be prevented.
Pay attention to what you’re doing. He said a lady came out of her house, talking on her cell and she get robbed. Another lady saw the robber in her rearview mirror running up to her car – and didn’t drive off.
Tiffany Harlow, Community Prosecutor – Tiffany said that most robberies are in “packs” and are not done by sole perpetrators. She said “we have a significant “youth problem”. Her office is working on setting up crime prevention policies. She said she speaks at North Atlanta High on a regular basis and goes to elementary and middle schools. She said a lot of this needs to be handled on the “front end” before it gets to the point of involving APD”. She said there is a “significant gang problem”. She said the problems often involve people who don’t live in Zone 2, so often, they need to perform prevention work in other zones. Tiffany added that she’s been trying to get a community prosecutor in the juvenile court system to help them before they get over to superior court. Her role is to prosecute repeat offenders and most of the juveniles don’t have records.
In response to a question, Tiffany said those arrested for armed robbery are not usually granted bond, so they stay in jail. Hobbs clarified that in cases involving juveniles, they may be released to their parents. He said a lot of the groups use younger individuals because they don’t have criminal histories.
Yolanda Adrean reported that she was in a meeting with Chief Turner. Turner said there were 481 criminals who have committed 7,000 crimes. She said, “guess how many are in jail today? Seven.” She said, one guy who’s on the streets today is 50 years old and he has been convicted 72 times and he’s not in jail! She said we need to show up at the polls in the fall to elect judges who show no mercy. Tom asked, is that related to the DA’s office? Tiffany said, “We don’t sentence, we recommend.” She said the judges have full discretion to follow or ignore the recommendations. She said in the case of the 50-yar old man, you need to look at the actual history—maybe the crimes are misdemeanors. Hobbs said most of the 7,000 are “Part 1 crimes” – murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, car theft, other larcenies and car break-ins – felonies.
Hobbs said our crime rates are down to 1960s levels, which is outstanding for a city our size, but if we could get the repeat offenders locked up it could be a lot better.
A questioner asked, how do we find out who the bad judges are? Tiffany said she didn’t know where a citizen could find a list of dispositions for each judge. She said she might be able to put together a quarterly report but wasn’t sure if the judges kept the records or if they are public. Tiffany said we know who they [bad judges] are, but you all don’t. The Atlanta Police Foundation is thinking about creating a ”judge scorecard”. Bill Bozarth pointed out that almost all judges run unopposed, so the public’s recourse at the ballot box is limited. Major Hobbs said “Court Watch” can help get needed convictions.
Transportation, Development and Infrastructure
- Yolanda Adrean reported that the two snow storms caused about $10 million in damages and expenses and several million more to clean the streets.
V. Special Guest Speakers: Candidates for Fulton County Commission, Seat 3
- Lee Morris
- Cory Ruth
- Bernie Tokarz
These candidates are all running for the newly defined Third District for the Fulton County Commission. That district extends from Midtown into Sandy Springs and encompasses all of Buckhead. A fourth candidate in the same primary, Alex Palacios, was unknown to BCN when we were setting up the candidates’ forum and was regrettably not invited to participate. There are no Democratic primary candidates, so the winner of the Republican Primary will serve on the commission. The discussion among three candidates and their responses to the Q&A session were polite and informative and we appreciate getting to know these candidates.
VI. Community Concerns/New Business
Jim Elgar of the City Council President’s office announced a free college entrance test preparation event at North Atlanta High School on March 29.
VIII. Next Meeting April 10, 2014 (Ed Lindsey and Greg Chevalier) & May 8, 2014 (Candidates for House District 54)
IX. Adjourn – The meeting adjourned at about 8:30 PM.
Note: The opinions expressed by the speakers and individual neighborhood representatives in these minutes do not necessarily represent those of BCN or its member neighborhoods.