By Ellen Eldridge and Collin Kelley
More surveillance cameras soon will appear in Buckhead and throughout the city.
Dist. 8 Atlanta City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean said at a recent Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods meeting that she plans to use $250,000 from her discretionary budget to partner with the Atlanta Police Foundation for more surveillance cameras and vehicle tag readers.
Also, Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza shopping malls will add 235 cameras as part of a partnership with Simon, the real estate company that owns the malls.
Buckhead residents have been on edge since three home invasions earlier this year and more than 100 car break-ins during a week in September. Adrean said generous residents of the community (including one who paid to have Tuxedo Park wired for cameras) and local businesses will also be involved in helping to fund and decide locations for the cameras and tag readers.
“The cameras and tag readers won’t solve all our problems, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Adrean said.
Robin Suggs, the general manager for Lenox Square, said Simon works with local law enforcement to coordinate focused efforts around their security program.
Suggs said Simon welcomes the opportunity to provide the entire community with heightened measures through the Operation Shield program, which was created in 2007 to improve crime prevention.
“Thanks to our collaborative relationship with the Atlanta Police Department, we now have enhanced safety and security around our properties with the Operation Shield initiative,” Suggs said.
“Cameras such as these are increasingly responsible for arrests that otherwise wouldn’t be made,” Councilman Howard Shook said. “I applaud Simon for their civic-mindedness and hope others follow suit.”
Atlanta Police Chief George Turner said the partnership will boost proactive crime fighting efforts in Buckhead. “The additional cameras will help our officers to do more than just monitor crime but will also aid in capturing video evidence to help solve crimes faster,” Turner said.
Dave Wilkinson, head of the nonprofit Atlanta Police Foundation, which supports the APD, said the foundation wants “to build the best video surveillance system in the world.”
Atlanta police now can monitor about 5,700 public and private-sector cameras, he said, and officials hope to connect eventually to 10,000. Since the program’s start, the Atlanta Police Department and the Atlanta Police Foundation have joined several organizations, including the Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta Public Schools and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, to monitor cameras.
During a community meeting at The Lodge at Peachtree Presbyterian Church, Wilkinson said technology allows “smart policing.”
“If you call 911 anywhere in the city of Atlanta, when the 911 operator is talking to you, police officers are queuing up cameras closest [to your location],” he said. “These officers truly are investigating the moment you make the phone call.”
Eventually, technology will allow officers to collect information from surveillance cameras, car-tag readers and from callers with cellphones. One system being proposed, he said, should allow cellphone users to install an app that would allow them call 911 and “to show the officers what you’re looking at.” “The bottom line is you don’t have to explain it, you can show them,” he said.