The Buckhead Community Improvement District is adding a second officer and vehicle to its private security patrol program in advance of a neighborhood-wide public safety plan expected to be announced Dec. 2.
That safety plan emerged from talk of a “Buckhead Blue” private security force, but appears to be a smaller-scale program of increasing and emphasizing existing tactics, based on discussion at the CID board’s Dec. 2 meeting.
In July, the CID partnered with the Atlanta Police Department to launch a security patrol using an off-duty officer in a specially branded police car. On Nov. 17, the program added a second officer who is patrolling with a regular police vehicle from Buckhead’s Zone 2 precinct, CID program manager Tony Peters told the board.
For 2021, the CID is committing $304,000 to formalize the two-officer, two-car patrol, which includes $50,000 to buy a second specially branded vehicle. The Dodge Charge with a police equipment package is the “most aggressive-looking car out there,” Peters said, and will take about 12 weeks to deliver.
That private patrol is part of the overall Buckhead public safety improvement plan, which is the first major effort of newly close operations between four local organizations: the CID, the Buckhead Coalition, Livable Buckhead and the Buckhead Business Association. CID Executive Director Jim Durrett recently became the president of the Coalition as well and there is a partial merger of the organization’s staff members.
Durrett said the public safety plan would be announced later on Dec. 2 and will have proposals in two broad categories: deterrence/enforcement and policies/procedures.
He said the plan will include coordinating existing private security patrols; “beefing up” the Operation Shield security camera network; improving the Crime Stoppers reward program; a “new look” at APD’s “Clean Car” educational campaign to encourage people to stop leaving vehicles unlocked or with valuables inside; and unspecified “new technology.”
The initial move to expand the CID’s own patrol was welcomed by board members, though with some concern about metrics and a desire to expand it further.
Robin Suggs, who manages the Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza malls for Simon Property Group, said her company is making “substantial investments” in security improvements that the additional patrol will help. Lenox Square has been the scene of several shootings in the past 12 months.
Robin Loudermilk of the Loudermilk Companies real estate firm said he has heard from business owners and others that crime in Buckhead is scaring away customers to places like Vinings. He says that situation is “tragic. So we’ve got to turn this around.”
“I’m all for this. I’m all for more, frankly,” said Herbert Ames of the real estate firm EDENS. But he also called for some “basic metrics” on judging the value of the private-patrol investment to show CID constituents and other possible funders for the program.
The CID patrol operates Tuesdays through Sundays, 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., as a supplement to regular APD patrols. Loudermilk asked why the patrol does not operate later into the night amid some reports of crime occurring until around 4 a.m. Durrett said that had been discussed in the private, internal meetings with APD and Atlanta Police Foundation officials, but would not immediately give the reason. “We’ll get back to you with the explanation,” he said.
Jim Bacchetta of the real estate firm Highland Properties asked about assurances that the plan would not mean the city reducing normal public safety resources in Buckhead. Durrett said the plan would address that concern.