James Spear already lived in Buckhead when he took advantage of an incentive to lure police officers there. He moved to Buckhead in March and became a police officer in October, and soon after that he had $3,000 as an incentive to stick around.
So far, three officers, including Spear, have received incentives offered by the Atlanta Police Foundation and the Buckhead Coalition intended to encourage more officers to live in the city. The perception is that having a police officer as a neighbor will deter crime, though no data supports this theory.
Spear said his presence causes crooks to reconsider stepping into his apartment complex, located near the Lindbergh MARTA station.
“I think guys would think twice before entering the complex and they’d think twice if they see a [police] car parked there,” Spear said. “When I get off work and I get back to my complex, I always have my uniform on and I’ll walk through the office sometimes and go and get my mail, and make myself visible.”
The Buckhead Coalition, in partnership with the Buckhead Community Improvement District, in September announced it kicked in an additional $2,000 to the $1,000 being offered by the Atlanta Police Foundation.
Stephanie Cruse, the foundation’s director of housing, said data shows Zone 2, which includes Buckhead, is the second most popular place to live for officers who receive the incentives. In Zone 2, 13 live in Buckhead. The most popular location is Zone 5, which includes downtown Atlanta and Midtown. Cruse said there are 20 officers in Zone 5, and the Midtown Improvement District is offering officers a $1,000 match to the foundation’s incentive.
Cruse said the higher cost of living in one of Atlanta’s wealthier locations is a factor in officers relocating in Midtown instead of Buckhead.
“That was one of the reasons we proposed to the Buckhead Coalition that they double the incentive and it was due primarily to the price point,” Cruse said. “Even with the $3,000, I think there may still be an affordability factor for officers.”
Officers who have received incentives for moving to Atlanta city limits, by zone
Zone 1 – 4
Zone 2 – 17 (13 in Buckhead)*
Zone 3 – 9
Zone 4 – 9
Zone 5 – 20 (12 downtown, 8 midtown)
Zone 6 – 2
Source: Atlanta Police Foundation
*Of this number, three have taken advantage of money offered through the Buckhead Coalition.
Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell said the organization has budgeted $40,000 for public safety programs, including the extra money for officers living in Buckhead.
Massell said he anticipates more participants in the program in the coming months. He said the coalition wants to make Zone 2 “the most desirable precinct” for officers.
“It’s more likely we’ll get young policemen that are just coming on but are going through the academy,” Massell said.
Spear said he found Buckhead to be a good location because it was close to transportation and shopping and had a reasonably low crime rate. “Once we found out about the incentive, it seemed like it kind of started spreading,” Spear said. “Other people have called me and asked questions. They’ve seemed very interested.”