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Published on March 17th, 2016 |

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Police seeing benefits of security cameras, license plate readers

Atlanta police are already seeing the benefits from the new security cameras and license plate readers in Buckhead. Zone 2 Commander Maj. Van Hobbs told the Buckhead Condo Alliance March 15 that they are now able to more quickly apprehend criminals.

APD Zone 2 Commander Maj. Vann Hobbs talks to members of the Buckhead Condo Alliance on March 15.

APD Zone 2 Commander Maj. Van Hobbs talks to members of the Buckhead Condo Alliance on March 15.

Hobbs told BCA members about a recent case of a report of a suspicious car that seemed to be canvassing a street in the Tuxedo area of Buckhead. That neighborhood had raised funds to install the new technology linked to the APD’s Video Integration Center in downtown Atlanta.

The technicians checked tag readings on 1,600 cars, a number that was immediately reduced to 1,200 cars and then to a few suspicious cars, Hobbs explained. A short time later, Zone 2 police stopped a car on Hollywood Road in northwest Atlanta; it contained a significant stash of stolen electronics equipment.

He told the group there already have been several instances like that one. He added added that the push to install security cameras and licenses plate readers in Buckhead has just recently gained momentum with funding through the offices of City Council members Yolanda Adrean and Howard Shook.

This was particularly significant to the audience of condominium residents, because several of the condo buildings have their own security camera systems. These can be linked to the APD’s Video Integration Center for monitoring by police in case of suspicious activities.

“We don’t record what those cameras capture” on a real-time basis, Hobbs told the group, “but we do have access to what those systems record.”

Hobbs said of the more than 5,000 cameras now tied to the APD’s VIC operation, the city only owns about 300 of them. So the success of the system relies on privately-owned cameras being hooked into the system.

In his fifth year as the Zone 2 commander responsible for police operations in Buckhead, Hobbs said keeping the crime rate down gets harder and harder because of all the development going on in Zone 2.

“Two years ago there were two big holes in the ground at the corner of Peachtree and Pharr roads,” he explained. Today, with all the retail establishments at Buckhead Atlanta and the people and cars it draws there, there are car break-ins, stolen cars, and thieves breaking windows and stealing merchandise from the retail shops.

“It is going to get a lot more crazy,” Hobbs said. “But we are keeping crime down in Zone 2 to 1960s levels.” He said car thefts are the biggest problem and in most cases the victims have left the keys in the car or left the car running, turned their back and the car is gone.

Hobbs said he is heavy on traffic patrols in Zone 2 “because the bad guys come up here.” He said he drives a dark blue Taurus and often makes traffic stops himself—many for things like having a brake light out or driving at night without the lights on. “But I rarely write a ticket for that.”

He said that although there are police zones in the city with much higher incidents of crime, “Zone 2 is a lightning rod for media attention.”

Hobbs told the group Buckhead does not have many people accosted on the street by people with guns. When it does happen, it is usually in the early morning hours after the bars close. He said the best advice is “be vigilant of your surroundings.”

He explained that Zone 2 is the largest of the six police zones in the city, a total of 40 square miles. He add that it is difficult for an officer to get from the western part of the zone to the central part of Buckhead in an emergency because there are very few east-west arteries.

Hobbs said he is able to have officers on every beat on every shift and hopes to get more officers soon. He said the police chief is hoping to hire an additional 300 officers this year and may also get back the 76 officers who have been assigned to the Atlanta Public Schools.

Asked whether he has enough cars available for all the beats, Hobbs said, “It would help if my officers would stop crashing them.”

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