By Jennifer Preyss

Last July, the side entrance of Brookhaven restaurant Corner Pizza, was forced open in the wee hours of the night and three flat screen TV sets were ripped from the ceiling.

Even though the cash register remained untouched during the robbery, the damages of the “smash-and-grab job” cost restaurant owner Chris Hagearty nearly $2,500 out of pocket.

When DeKalb Police arrived on scene about 30 minutes after Hagearty reported the incident, they took inventory of the crime and quickly moved on, he said.

“I didn’t expect much from [DeKalb Police],” Hagearty said. “They filled out a police report, but they didn’t have much to say…they were sort of going through the motions.”

Detectives assigned to the case later recovered one of Hagearty’s stolen TVs, but the effort did little to restore his faith in DeKalb police.

And it seems Hagearty isn’t alone. During two October meetings of The Brookhaven Chamblee Home Owners and Neighborhood Business Alliance, attendees openly expressed concerns about what appears to be a rise in criminal activity in their neighborhood, and a perception that law enforcement has yet to step up to the plate.

“If you had asked me two weeks ago if I thought crime was up I would have said no, but now I believe it is,” Hagearty, a member of the Alliance, said Monday, Nov. 9.

Rashmi Patel, who owns Brookhaven Cleaners with her husband, said her store was robbed two consecutive holiday seasons in 2007 and 2008. Both times, Patel said police were slow responding to the scene, never followed up with her once they concluded their report, and were unable to recover any of the stolen merchandise.

“We are the ones paying the taxes. They should have better communication with us and we should get the proper result,” Patel said.

Patel said the break-ins are always a hassle because in addition to the money stolen from the cash register, she had to pay to replace windows, electronics and other items. And when customer property is stolen, Brookhaven Cleaners loses business.

“When we lose garments, we lose customers because they have no faith in us anymore,” Patel said. “[Police] need to get the bad people that are doing these bad things.”

Three businesses within a stone’s throw of Corner Pizza were victims of crime in recent weeks, Hagearty said. And according to the DeKalb Police Crime Tracker Web site, there were 81 crimes reported within a two-mile radius of the restaurant, located at 2163 Johnson Ferry Road, from Aug. 3, 2009 to Oct. 31, 2009. A total of 554 crimes were reported county-wide during the same timeframe.

Some of the crimes mentioned in the report included larceny, burglary, break-ins, car thefts, fraud and vandalism, among others.

But Maj. Steve Waits of the DeKalb Police North precinct, said the community’s perception about Brookhaven crime increases, and an attitude of indifference among local law enforcement, simply isn’t true.

“I can tell you that compared to 2008, crime is down [this year],” Waits said referencing data encompassing the whole of DeKalb County. “We take every call seriously, every break-in seriously, but do they all get solved? Unfortunately, no they don’t.”

The Department was unable to release exact figures about crime statistics in the Brookhaven area for the 2008 calendar year and the 2009 year-to-date, due to a computer malfunction, Public Information Officer Jason Gagnon said Monday.

Even though Waits indicated crime has tapered off since last year, North precinct officers have not wavered in their dedication to protecting and serving the community, he said.

Under Waits’ employ, two Interactive Policing teams patrol the streets day and night with a shared goal to “minimize crime.”

“The primary effort of the teams is crime reduction,” Waits said. “The precinct as a whole takes crime very seriously.”

But Hagearty and other Brookhaven locals may be inclined to disagree when an incident is reported and police response time is slow and officers are seemingly disinterested upon arrival.

A sympathetic Waits said he understands that when someone is the victim of a crime it can appear as though the police are not responding as quickly as the person would prefer.

“If it’s your house or business [that gets robbed] you may perceive that crime is increasing,” Waits said.

The Department is required to prioritize emergency calls, so both Hagearty and Patel’s 911 calls would have been labeled Priority 2 calls because the robbery was not in progress. Therefore, police response time for those particular cases may have been longer, especially if a Priority 1 call had come in at the same time. A Priority 1 call was described by Waits as a robbery, shooting, or other emergency that was currently in progress and demanded immediate attention.