An owner of a Lindbergh-area business says she will try to build a coalition of businesses and residents in the neighborhood to help combat what she says is a “hotbed” of crime in the area.
“We’re fighting a losing battle that’s been going on for years,” said LeAnne Livaditis, an owner of the restaurant Zesto’s at 2469 Piedmont Road.
Livaditis said homeless people, prostitutes and drug dealers are frequently around the restaurant. Once police or security move them away, they return again shortly after, she said at the July 3 NPU-B meeting.
“It’s happening right under our noses. They are getting comfortable,” she said.
One of the problems, Livaditis said, is that there is not a civic or neighborhood group that represents the area and could raise funds or lobby for safety improvements.
Most residential areas have neighborhood associations, and other major commercial areas that experience crime are covered by the Buckhead Community Improvement District, said Nancy Bliwise, the NPU-B chair.
Bliwise suggested Livaditis try to form a group with the other business owners in the area.
“We can’t solve the issue for you,” Bliwise said. “What it’s going to take is bringing together a coalition.”
Livaditis said she would contact more officials who could be able to help and try to build support for a neighborhood entity that could push for more security.
MARTA Police Sgt. Rod Ray said at the meeting that he is aware of the problems with crime and loitering around her business and the Lindbergh area.
“I know exactly what you are talking about,” Ray said.
He said the officers are instructed to clear people out of the station who are not planning to get on a bus or train. That pushes people out into the neighboring area, including businesses like Zesto’s, he said.
“It’s like a tunnel of water,” he said.
More homeless people have been around the station and the area since the closure of Peachtree-Pine, a controversial Midtown homeless shelter that was the site of health and crime problems, Ray said. Once the city’s largest homeless shelter, it closed in 2017.
Bliwise said she has heard from police that one tool is to post signs saying loitering and soliciting are not allowed on the property.
“It’s not going to be a problem that is easily solved,” Bliwise said.
Keeva Kase, the president and CEO of Buckhead Christian Ministries, which offers services to people homeless or in danger of becoming homeless, encouraged the business owners concerned to reach out to the organization to learn about the resources available to them and for the people congregating around.
“We want to play a part in solving that problem,” Kase said in an interview. “I never think it’s wise to criminalize someone’s status in life.”
Livaditis asked if there was a way to encourage the community to not give money to homeless people or panhandlers, which only incentivizes them to return, she said.
Ray said the police unit has talked to many people who admit they come up from south Atlanta to Buckhead because people are more likely to give money.
Bliwise argued not to judge those who do give money. People asking for money can be an uncomfortable or unsafe for people, especially if a panhandler is aggressive, Bliwise said.
“I’m not jaded about giving all homeless money, but they treat our parking lot like an office,” Livaditis responded.
Kase said his organization does not encourage people to not give money, but said people should use their discretion, especially if the circumstances are suspicious. Organizations like BCM can also provide a more structured way to assist homeless people, he said.
“Of course we encourage people to be generous and charitable. I would encourage people to use their own discretion and sense of compassion,” Kase said.