With a new police chief heading up the Atlanta Police Department, changes in command staff recently were made, including the assignment of a new officer to head up Zone 2, which includes Buckhead.
Maj. Barry Shaw replaces Major Van Hobbs as Zone 2 commander. Hobbs had headed up the zone since 2012. Shaw, a 27-year veteran of the APD, was in code enforcement for three years before being moved to his current post. Hobbs has been moved to code enforcement.
Chief Erika Shields, who took over the top spot of the APD after Chief George Turner’s retirement in December, made the command staff change announcements effective Dec. 29.
“When you get a new chief, people change seats and I was honored to be asked to serve in this position,” Shaw said.
Shaw said heading up Zone 2 will “definitely be a challenge” as officers face an uptick in crime in the last year.
One of his first tasks in his new post was to rebrand the Zone 2 traffic squad as a crime suppression unit. The original intent of the traffic squad was to essentially flash blue lights and conduct traffic stops and try to keep people who don’t live in Buckhead from entering the neighborhood because most crimes committed in the area are committed by outsiders.
“It’s pretty safe to say that criminals watch us as closely as we watch them and they adapt,” Shaw said.
“By coming in here with a different set of eyes, I’ve made some personnel changes. Every zone has crime suppression, but [in Buckhead] we have mostly property crimes and car break-ins.”
The traffic squad will still conduct traffic duty when needed, but will also be used in “more traditional crime fighting” exercises, such as patrolling “hot spots” where crime is becoming more prevalent.
“And we hope to see this pay some dividends soon,” Shaw said.
Because of the large number of surveillance cameras in Zone 2, which covers 40 square miles, there will also be more time spent by officers monitoring those cameras, he said.
“Zone 2 really is a large zone and really runs the gamut, from residential areas to super busy areas such as Lenox and Cheshire Bridge Road. It’s important to put officers in the right place,” he said.
Zone 2 officers will also conduct more surveillance of gas stations, where many car thefts have been occurring, he said.
Shaw said he and other officers have already conducted several community meetings in the few weeks he’s been in charge, listening to residents and their concerns to make sure the department is responsive to what they are experiencing.
In December, the North Buckhead Civic Association issued an alert in its newsletter warning people that residential crime was up over the last year – including 19 residential burglaries in 2016, rising from 13 in 2015. In June, Buckhead residents met at a community meeting with then Zone 2 commander Hobbs to complain about what they said was a rise in armed robberies and car break-ins.
Zone 2 has approximately 120 officers, but that includes those on administrative duties and crime scene investigators.
“It goes without saying the entire department wants to make people feel safe where they work and live,” Shaw said.