The Buckhead Community Improvement District aims to launch a new security patrol vehicle and add more surveillance cameras in a nearly $300,000 response to shootings that drew the attention of the police chief and others.
The investment of up to $297,000 in spending on “safety measures” was approved in three items at the March 25 meeting of the BCID board, which was held via teleconference due to the coronavirus pandemic.
BCID Executive Director Jim Durrett, speaking of one set of new cameras, said the Atlanta Police Department suggested them “to help them address the situation here in Buckhead, and they thought this would be an outstanding way to get more eyes and more deterents…”
The BCID is a self-taxing group of commercial property owners in the central business area, including Lenox Square mall, which has been the scene of several shootings — including one homicide — since December. APD has a mini-precinct within Lenox Square and a network of cameras, but Police Chief Erika Shields has said the mall needs to do more for security. The existing cameras failed to capture at least one of the recent shootings due to positioning.
A major innovation is the new security patrol, deploying off-duty police officers in a new custom vehicle branded with both APD and BCID logos. The BCID hopes to launch the patrol May 1 after gaining Atlanta City Council approval and operate it eight hours a day, six days a week.
Tony Peters, the BCID’s director of capital projects and programs, said the patrol was inspired by a similar program in the Upper Westside Improvement District and would help to make police response “nimble, flexible” in the area.
Under a proposed agreement, the city would pay for gas, insurance and maintenance of the patrol vehicle, which would be parked at APD’s Zone 2 police precinct on Maple Drive. The patrol officer would maintain a daily activity log that the BCID could review, Peters said.
The BCID has long funded video and license-plate reading cameras in its area, and now will add more to both the conventional system as well as portable versions.
The board approved spending up to $40,000 to rent six portable, solar-powered video and license-plate reading cameras for 90 days. Durrett said the BCID intends to ask property owners to take over the cameras as long-term additions to the area.
The board also approved spending $107,000 to add video and license-plate reader cameras to various intersections in the area “where we don’t have adequate coverage now.”
Another ongoing APD-BCID partnership is traffic direction patrols by off-duty officers. Matt Gore, the BCID’s projects and programs manager, said those officers are still working even though traffic volumes are down due to the pandemic. When officers are not busy directing traffic, they are transitioning to a “visibility role,” such as talking with local businesses owners, said Gore. That arrangement is being reviewed weekly, he said.
Correction: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story gave an incorrect amount of expenditure for the rental of security cameras.