Published on October 21st, 2015 |0
Fighting crime, traffic congestion major topics at MPNCA meeting
All three Atlanta City Council members who participated in the meeting had crime and the policing of crime on their minds as they addressed the audience of about 50 or more attending the
meeting at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in northwest Buckhead.
Dist. 8 Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean, who represents the Mt. Paran-Northside area, told the audience of her security plan for the district, which focuses on placing surveillance cameras as license plate readers at major intersections and through neighborhoods.
“We are so stretched on our police resources,” she told the audience in explaining why one individual wrote a check for $440,000 to have surveillance cameras installed throughout his Tuxedo Park neighborhood. The cameras cost $15,000 each and license plate readers $17,000 each.
The audience was told that the planned system for District 8 is about a $4 million project and there already are commitments for $2.175 million. Adrean said she put in $300,000 from her council office funds and got the mayor to ante up $450,000. The program relies heavily on private funding from individuals and businesses. (To read earlier BuckheadView story on this plan, click here.)
But Adrean had another message for the audience: “If we don’t do a better job of calling 911 to report crimes, we will not get more police resources in our neighborhoods.” She said the police force is portioned out to areas of the city based on two things: 911 calls received and crime reports filed.
Adrean told the audience, “There is the perception of crime on one side and there are the crime reports that the police see on the other side. In the middle is the reality of crime. The people on both sides need to move to the middle…to the actual crimes.”
“The police use a very simple formula: how many 911 calls, how many reported crimes,” she told the audience. “We need to do a better job of
Post 2 At-Large Councilwoman Mary Norwood had a message that caught the attention of many in the audience: “Our police officers are leaving in droves.” She pointed out that the city pays $100,000 to train new recruits and added, “The city lost 170 of them this year.” That’s a big double loss, she said.
“I am sorry about the lawsuit (over the pension plan for police officers), but I want our officers paid,” Norwood said.
She also told the audience she has now served two years on the repeat offender crimes panel and has been amazed at what she has found out. She said judges did not have the full story on offenders before them. Of 15,000 repeat offender records, 8,700 of them were not recorded.
“Judges have been focused on the offense rather than on the offender,” Norwood said. But that is changing. The judges have started a pilot program in June to solve that problem, she explained. “We now also have a repeat-offender police unit” within the Atlanta Police Department she added.
City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, who was not on the program for the meeting but was asked to say a few words, also weighed in on the public safety discussion stating, “We need a police force that has high morale,” which he added results from a good salary and pension program among other things.
Mitchell said police work is getting more challenging and less rewarding—with more pressures and less public support—every day. He can understand why more officers are opting out, but feels the city has to find a way to retain the good officers.
Mitchell also praised the security plan Adrean has put together for District 8 working with the Atlanta Police Department and Atlanta Police Foundation. “What is being developed in this district will be a model for the whole city,” he added.
He also said another problem that needs to be aggressively dealt with is “reducing the ability of the criminal community to recruit new talent.” He said, just as colleges and businesses recruit students, the criminal community also is actively recruiting young, new talent to join their forces.
The discussions related to traffic congestion on north Buckhead’s roads and problematic intersections was kicked off by a discussion of a survey the
MPNCA’s Traffic Committee conducted to which 224 residents responded, rating the traffic issues on a scale of 1-5.
Jennifer Moyers reported the survey showed the intersection of Mt. Paran, Conway and Randall Mill to be the biggest problem, with 82 percent of the respondents citing it as a moderate to extreme problem. The second biggest problem (73 percent said) was the intersection of Beechwood at Mt. Paran Trail.
The next major problem in the eyes of residents was excessive speeding and lack of adequate sight lines on many of the hilly, twisting northwest Buckhead roads. Although Moyers expected the backup of traffic on Mt. Paran at the entrance to Jackson Elementary School to be listed as a major problem, she reported it did not seem to be a big problem at all.
Moyers said one interesting thing that came out of the survey was that 69 percent of the respondents want more sidewalks and bike lanes or some combination of the two.
One resident brought up the issue of a turn arrow at Mt. Paran and Randall Mill. The turn arrow is in place, but the city also is looking at a number of options there.
“We’ve been talking about it for 10 years,” the resident said. Moyers responded, “It takes forever to get things done with the city.”
Adrean also chimed in on the traffic and intersection problems, pointing out that a good deal has already been accomplished on the areas roads in the past couple of years and more is in the works. She said the Mt. Paran, Conway, Randall Mill intersection is being studied right now. And, she said she has asked the city to study an extra lane on Mt. Paran at the Jackson school.
Adrean told the audience the city plans to spend $250 million in bond money in the next five years on infrastructure needs. But, while she admits there are roads in District 8 that need resurfacing and sidewalks, “I am not big on paying 20-year money on paving roads,” she said.
Council President Mitchell agreed with Adrean on that point saying the city has built up a maintenance reserve fund that is specifically designed for projects such as paving roads.