By Louis Mayeux

Two of Atlanta’s hottest issues — crime and city water department problems — came to a boil at the Sept. 1 meeting of Neighborhood Planning Unit A.

Atlanta city councilman and council president candidate Ceasar Mitchell, making a late visit, promised the NPU that the council will pass legislation to alleviate the Watershed Management Department’s problems with high water bills, billing errors and abrupt service cutoffs. The problems led to City Council audits of the water department’s operations.

“The way they deal with cutoffs is not the most customer-friendly approach,” Mitchell said. “To just disconnect water is not good business in many ways. We’re going to pass legislation to put standards in place.”

Mitchell, who responded to members’ requests for a report on the council’s Utilities Committee meeting on Water Management Department Problems, said that Atlanta has some of the highest water rates in the nation for a city its size. Buckhead council members Clair Muller and Howard Shook, also members of the Utilities Committee, endorsed legislation to change Water Department procedures.

In response to NPU chairman Ray Mock and other members’ complaints about the performance of Watershed Commissioner Rob Hunter, Mitchell said that the new Atlanta mayor will have to decide on whether to replace Hunter, as well as reorganizing the Water Department.

Earlier in the meeting, Zone 2 police officer J. Day reported, “crime’s up in the last month. Everything’s up from what I’m seeing.” Day said the crime spike includes thieves smashing car windows to steal items inside and residential and business burglaries. Another popular target is homes under construction, from which appliances and copper pipe are stolen.

A frequent method is for a team of crooks to pretend to be yard maintenance workers, he said. A person will knock on a resident’s door and ask to do yardwork, meanwhile “casing” the home for a later hit.

“If you see a van full of people in your neighborhood, call us, and we will probably arrest them,” Day said.

Those witnessing a crime should call 911, not the Zone 2 precinct, he said, “If it’s really something dire, call the precinct.”

Day said adults are introducing youngsters under 17 into the criminal life. If caught, a 17-year-old will often be released after his first burglary, and receive just 30 days in jail for a second or third offense, Day said. “There’s a big problem with juveniles being able to skirt the law,” he said.

It was disclosed the police have a directed patrol program and will check on a home for up to two weeks if the resident is out of town. Residents can call 404-848-7231.