Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has challenged the Atlanta Police Department to reduce crime in the city by 15 percent in 2011, according to Police Chief George Turner.

“Fifteen percent is a huge number,” Turner told more than 100 people who attended the Jan. 27 breakfast meeting of the Buckhead Business Association. “The mayor has challenged us to be one of the safest big cities in the U.S.”

Turner said the police department had recorded a 10 percent drop in crime for 2010, which he said was a significant improvement over the previous year. To meet the goal for 2011, set by Reed on Jan 25, Turner pointed to continued efforts to build community partnerships and to improve rapid response crime alert systems.

Turner praised Zone 2 Commander Maj. Robert Browning, who attended the meeting, citing an overall crime decrease in Zone 2 last year, including a 19 percent drop in robberies. One area that increased was auto thefts, Turner said, saying Buckhead’s large percentage of luxury cars were targeted.

As part of an initiative to better communicate with the public, Turner referred to a recent alert the force sent out about three sexual assaults/burglaries in Buckhead. The alert warned women to be especially vigilant.

The chief said that, as a result of the news, the APD received a tip and is working  with the Sandy Springs police department on “a really strong lead. We think we have a suspect identified and hope to have him in custody.”

In the community policing initiative, experienced police officers will be given time to meet with business and community leaders, he said. “We want to develop some relationships and partnerships to solve some real systemic problems that we’ve identified,” he said.

Another initiative of the department is to establish a centralized location for monitoring feeds from more than a thousand public and private security cameras positioned around the city.  Turner said the monitoring station would be at the city’s 911 center and provide better data for aiding the city’s detectives.

Buckhead was a leader in establishing a network of video cameras. The Buckhead Alliance set up cameras throughout the Buckhead Village area several years ago. The cameras were monitored at a police substation in the Village.

Turner also spoke about a redesign of the department’s six police zones and 62 beats. The new design will add three beats to Zone 2.  He said some police beats respond to more calls than others—including Zone 2—that report far less activity.  “Our goal was to even that workflow out.”

Under the redesign, Zone 2, which is already the largest zone in the city geographically, will add  beats in the Cheshire Bridge Road and Morningside areas. Turner said that he’s been working with Dist. 7 Councilman Howard Shook and Dist. 8 Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean to deal with their concerns and promised that zone would have additional officers and resources to handle the extra territory.

He said that his 10-year plan to balance the police workload in the city is to add a seventh zone.

The beat redesign is based on the number of police calls received throughout the city.  Adrean believes that Buckhead tracks lower in the number of police calls because many neighborhoods hire private security forces and that residents often just their security force rather than 911.

In response to a question from the audience, Turner said that calls received by off-duty police officers equipped with departmental radios and working neighborhood security are registered in the city’s computer system. But he cautioned that residents should call 911 and not the neighborhood security when there is an emergency, so that the APD officers know can quickly respond.

-John Schaffner

John Schaffner

John Schaffner was founding editor of Reporter Newspapers.