By John Schaffner

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said the county criminal justice system is likely to face prblems due to the $53.2 million in proposed cuts his office and the court system face in the county budget for 2010.

He told the 20 neighborhood representatives at the Nov. 12 Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods meeting he may be forced to cut his staff of prosecutors.

In all, the $517.6 million budget proposal pares spending by $148.2 million.

Some court officials have said they could lose as many as 1,000 employees and services would be severely impacted.

The cuts in most departments, including the district attorney, superior and state court judges, sheriff’s office, court clerks and other related agencies come in at about 25 percent in the budget proposal released Nov. 16.

Officials claim they can’t find massive savings without massive layoffs, since about 80 percent of their spending is for personnel.

Howard said there is much work that will not be able to be done if the system loses so many employees.

Howard explained “the crime rate is going down, but it is a lot different types of crime. It is more organized than before.” He said store break-ins today involve “many people and they are in and out in three minutes.” He also said crime is more violent because of the weapons being used.

He said the biggest increase is in burglaries. He said in the second week of December a countywide burglary task force is going into operation, for which a $200,000 stimulus grant was obtained.

Howard said there is a growing gang problem in the area and a gang group was formed in 2007 to deal with it. He said his office is now prosecuting 42 gang cases. One gang is responsible for five homicides, he said.

He said what we are experiencing in the county is the first generation of gang problems and “we want to stop it there,” he added.

Howard attended the meeting with Community Prosecutor Shirley Jackson and was asked what Atlanta Police Zone 2, which covers all of Buckhead, needs to do to get a community prosecutor. Howard said those at the meeting need to write their county commissioners requesting funding for the position.