By John Schaffner
There will be an increase in Atlanta police officers on the streets of Buckhead’s Zone 2 from now until at least the end of the year due to Mayor Shirley Franklin and Police Chief Richard Pennington identifying a pool of money to pay overtime to existing officers.
According to Zone 2 Commander Major James Sellers, “a very handsome amount of money” has been authorized for overtime in each zone citywide as part of an Atlanta Crime Reduction and Enforcement (ACRE) program that started at the beginning of this month and will last through the end of the year.
Zone 2 is allotted slots for six officers and one supervisor per shift under the overtime program. The allocation of funds comes to around $15,700 per week that is available to Zone 2 under the program, according to Sellers.
“We plan to use those officers in the areas that have the most incidents of auto theft, burglary and larceny from autos,” Sellers stated. “The areas we are really concerned about are the commercial areas in the Peachtree Road corridor from around the Peach Shopping Center past Phipps Plaza to Club Drive.
“The second area is Howell Mill Road around I-75. There has been a big increase in commercial locations over there, so there are more opportunities for crime. There are more cars parked there than there used to be. We need to have more officers there and this is a way we can do that,” he added.
Sellers explained, “The officers can work up to a four-hour shift on overtime. So, the officer can work the regular 8-hour shift and stay on and work another four hours. The four hours will be concentrated in these areas where we want to have a reduction in crime.” He said the officers can do up to 25 hours of overtime a week.
“We can now use the uniformed police for discretionary extra patrols in the areas where the highest incidents of crime occur,” he stated.
“We are not going to have them in a car for 12 hours responding to 911 calls,” Sellers added. “They will be involved in visibility type details—to be seen, be out there walking, some will be on vehicle patrols, some will be in plain clothes. He said they would be involved in different duties than they do all day in order to break the monotony.
“We are going to be able to use out-of-regular-shift officers,” Sellers said. “They will be working in details in these areas but will not be answering 911 calls. They will be extra officers on those beats. They can handle emergencies, but we have our regular beat officers to handle the 911 calls.”
Although the area around Piedmont and Lindbergh has been a trouble spot, Zone 2 has had additional help in that area already from some of the detective units. “They spend a lot of time in that area,” Sellers said.
“On the north end of the zone, the problems around Chastain Park are event driven,” he explained. “There are a lot of cars for concerts and we are concerned about break-ins. There are off-duty officers up there working on those events and we are working with them to get that better secured.
“We want to use this overtime in the high commercial areas,” the Zone 2 commander stated. “It is not so much that there is increased crime in those areas, but those present the best opportunities to reduce crime. We have reduced crime in Zone 2 by 4% percent in the past year and I believe it is down 17 percent over two years. There is still a lot of room for improvement in there. Just because we reduce it 4% doesn’t mean we don’t want to reduce it another 10%,” he added.
“The crimes that really quickly add up are the thefts from vehicles and the other larcenies,” he pointed out. “The larceny crimes, such as shoplifting, are occurring at commercial locations. If we can have extra officers around there, just the visibility might tell a bad guy let’s go try another area.”
Sellers said Zone 2 has 117 sworn personnel, which means people that have arrest capability. “We all are on the street at one time or another during the day,” he said.
He explained that each zone has 10 beats—except Zone 4, which has 13—and just to handle the beat cars requires 12 officers.
Sellers said there has not been a transfer of officers out of Zone 2 to other zones. “There was a time, from January to the first of September, when our administrative staff—the people who do the office work here—were required to spend one day a week in Zone 4 patrolling. All the zones throughout the city would send their administrative staff one day a week to Zone 4 to help out with manpower. But when the overtime program got started, it was not necessary anymore and they have all returned to their regular posts.”
Sellers said Zone 2 has not had anybody transfer other than in the case where it was a promotion. “Nobody went to another zone that wasn’t replaced,” he said.