The Atlanta Police Department plans to redraw the boundaries of the beats officers patrol in order to equalize their workload.

The changes mean the area covered by Zone 2, which includes Buckhead, will grow by about 3.4 square miles and gain three new beats, but also will add 15 officers and three patrol cars, according to police.

The plan also means that the area each Atlanta police officer covers, on average, will shrink, police officials told about 40 residents who on March 9 attended one of a series of meetings to outline the changes.

The department’s plan adds 12 patrol cars and 60 officers across the city and “allows us to bring more police officers into the precincts,” Police Chief George Turner told the crowd gathered at The Lodge Café at Peachtree Presbyterian Church. The department’s proposal cuts the area typically patrolled by a beat officer to about 3 square miles from about 3.6 square miles, police said. The new plan also creates a special beat to handle calls in the Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza area.

“We have been able to reduce the size of the beats,” Turner said. “We think by having more officers on the street, it will reduce our response times across the city.”

But the new beat arrangements mean Zone 2 officers, who had the lowest workload rating in the city under the old plan, will now have the highest, police said.Some Buckhead residents worry that the new beats could slow police response times in Zone 2, the area of the city that records the lowest crime numbers.

Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook told members of the North Buckhead Civic Association March 22 he had concerns about adding portions of the Cheshire Bridge Road area to Zone 2. “Our crime stats will go up,” he said.

Shook called on police to add another “umbrella” patrol car and two more detectives to the Zone 2 force.

On March 17, the board of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods voted to ask police to monitor response times under the new plan and report them to neighborhood representatives.

The police proposal “makes sense from a management point of view, but it’s real important to look at the response times, too,” said Gordon Certain, council secretary. “It still has the potential to be inequitable in terms of response times.”

Certain said that the beat covering the northwest corner of the city is 4 miles “from one inaccessible corner to the other inaccessible corner.”

“It looks to be smaller from what we’ve got now, but it’s four miles, worse case, and if somebody’s breaking into your house, it might matter,” he said. “I get folks all the time who said they called the police and it’s hours before they get there. Other times, it’s seconds. It’d be nice to have some hard facts.”

The plan offers the first complete realignment of the department’s patrol beats since 2003, officials said. Some less sweeping changes were made in 2007, they said.

The new beat design is based on a measure of the workload for officers in each beat, officials said, and attempts to make their workloads more equal.

“It was determined that several beats were too much to handle by one police officer,” Turner said.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.