Elizabeth Morrow wants Buckhead residents to know they have a friend in the District Attorney’s office.
Morrow grew up in Milledgeville, Ga., and worked in the trial division of the Fulton County District Attorney’s office, where in 2014 she was named attorney of the year for her unit. Earlier this year, she was chosen to be the community prosecutor for Atlanta’s Zone 2.
“Many people think Zone 2 is just Buckhead,” she said, “but Zone 2 includes Lindbergh, Garden Hills and Marietta Boulevard, and extends to Northside Parkway. It’s 40 square miles, so it’s the biggest zone.”
Chair of Neighborhood Planning Unit B Andrea Bennett has been a Buckhead resident for 25 years and joined the NPU-B in 2005. She said she appreciates having a community prosecutor who often attends meetings, and updates residents on current cases and crimes.
When people ask Bennett for help in contacting someone, Bennett said it’s good to have a specific recommendation. “Instead of saying ‘call the DA’s office,’ I can say, call this person,” Bennett said.
Morrow said she’s going after criminals and helping unite the community she serves. She describes herself as a liaison between the community and the DA’s office, she said.
“What we do is take high-profile cases in which the community has a great interest, usually repeat offenders, and we will seek the maximum sentence or at least incarceration,” she said.
Morrow said feedback from neighbors about a possible drug or “trap house” leads to controlled drug buys, and police can verify drug dealing and illegal activity.
“If a community identifies [crime in] an area, we will canvas with our mobile outreach clinic and our investigators,” she said.
Examining arrests made by patrol officers provides the DA’s office more ammunition to prosecute cases and seize property.
The DA’s office then sends a “cease and desist letter” and can eventually seize the property, she said.
“In Zone 2, there’s been a very good response to issues in the community and a very good response to the community prosecutor — me,” Morrow said. “The APD has been very responsive to citizens’ concerns. Once we can identify something, we can act.”
She said many people do call police when they notice a problem because they want to feel safe in the place where they live and pay taxes.
Wayne Robinson is a Buckhead resident who regularly rides along with Atlanta patrol officers in Zone 2. He said his neighbors throughout the area should feel comforted that police care about the community.
“They make a point to stop and say hello [when] passing through neighborhoods and wish more people would approach them,” Robinson said. “I know they are well trained and motivated to get criminals off the streets.”
While Robinson said he thinks the answer is to add patrol officers, community prosecutors take a lead role in identifying and driving crime out of the area, Morrow said.
Morrow meets with the Citizens Advisory Committee, Neighborhood Planning Unit B and the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods. “That’s where we get the feedback from the community to see what issues they’re having and what areas of concern they’re having in terms of crime in their neighborhoods,” Morrow said.
Morrow said she also works with the Buckhead Business Association and the police department’s repeat offenders unit so she can get everything she needs to keep repeat offenders in jail.
Morrow recently won a conviction of a 23-year-old man who already had two violent felony convictions when he was arrested July 13 for breaking into cars.
Travantae Turner was accused of smashing the windows of three cars in a gym parking lot on Bishop Street and stole a computer bag, camera, iPad and MacBook laptop, she said. One of the car owners saw him stealing and demanded her things back, Morrow said. When Turner drove out of the parking lot, he drove on the wrong side of the road and hit a patrol car, she said. He was arrested after a brief chase and promptly admitted everything, Morrow said.
Morrow offered him a plea deal where he would serve 2 1/2 years in state prison, followed by two years and four months on probation. When he gets out of prison, Turner will have to pay $2,500 in restitution, attend mandatory drug treatment, and will be banished from Zone 2 for the duration of his probation, Morrow said.
If he fails to pay the restitution to the victims, which represents the deductible they had to pay for smashed car windows and other damage, he would be sent back to prison, Morrow said. Same thing if he fails to report to probation or attend drug treatment. “Hopefully he can get some kind of treatment in jail,” she said.
Some criminals are obviously drug addicts in need of rehabilitation, Morrow said, but others are just violent.
Morrow said she went after this 23-year-old man so hard because he already had two violent felony convictions on his record, she said. “One was a burglary, one was false imprisonment,” she said. “None of them were drug related.”
During his recorded jail phone calls, he bragged about his crimes and said he would only get probation, Morrow said.
“He was laughing about it, bragging about it and trying to get his girlfriend to take possession of a stolen gun that was in the car,” Morrow said.
Morrow said if defendants have mitigating factors such as being in school or someone is the primary caretaker of children, she won’t necessarily try to make an example out of that person.
“What I said before about the mitigation, that did not apply,” Morrow said.
She calls herself an advocate for the victims of crime, such as the woman who walked out of the gym to find her car window smashed and glass all over the ground.
“One moment you’re going into a gym, working out, and another moment the glass of your car is all in the grass and your stuff is gone and [the victims] have to pay,” Morrow said.
Morrow said her job as a community prosecutor helps her engage with the larger community and not just the victims of crime.
“We take the DA’s office from the courtroom into the community,” Morrow said.
As an attorney who represents people “on behalf of the state,” Morrow said she enjoys seeing in practice the people she works so hard for.
“You actually get to see ‘the people,’” she said. “I like that aspect of [my job].”
She said when she started law school, she felt business minded, and used her English background toward drafting and interpreting contracts, but she said she quickly felt bored. She wanted to help others more, she said.
“When I was working in the private sector, I felt like I was working for myself, and now I feel like I’m working for other people, and that makes me feel fulfilled,” Morrow said.
She describes her work as an extension of her personal goals to help people and do outreach, she said.
Morrow said she is proud to be part of a team of people working to fight crime on a local level.
“It’s like you have a friend in the DA’s office,” she said. “You have to keep the community safe.”