Atlanta Police Chief George Turner

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has challenged the Atlanta Police Department to reduce overall 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. Buckhead has been a target for car thefts because of the large number of luxury cars in the community, he said.

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 chief said that, as a result of the news, the Atlanta police received a “strong lead” on a possible suspect.

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 department initiative is to establish a centralized location for monitoring feeds from more than 1,000 public and private security cameras positioned around the city.

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 neighborhoods.

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 a member of 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 can quickly respond.

John Schaffner

John Schaffner was founding editor of Reporter Newspapers.