As momentum builds for a “Buckhead Blue” private security patrol to fight crime, the leader of the two organizations most likely to run it is expressing caution and concerns that the branding is getting ahead of planning.
Jim Durrett, who is both executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District and president of the Buckhead Coalition, tapped the brakes on the private policing idea at an Oct. 6 meeting of Neighborhood Planning Unit B. He called for a data-driven approach so that such a patrol is not merely a reaction to some crime issues that he believes are short-term and will “dissipate.”
“So rather than say, ‘We’re gonna go with a ‘Buckhead Blue’ program and it’s gonna have this, that and the other thing,’ what we’re really going to do is study the heck out of it” to understand crime-fighting needs, said Durrett.
Durrett expressed displeasure that the program already has a catchy name prior to any decision on whether it should exist. “I hate the idea that it’s already been branded,” he said, warning against setting unrealistic expectations.
Sprouting from concerns about an increase in shootings and quality-of-life crimes like street racing, “Buckhead Blue” is a concept for a neighborhood-wide private police force of off-duty officers. Envisioned as a larger version of a Midtown program called “Midtown Blue,” the concept was proposed at a September community meeting by Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts, who recently moved to Peachtree Road and got an earful of street-racing noise. The idea was greeted with interest from leaders of neighborhood and business groups and such elected officials as City Councilmember J.P. Matzigkeit.
“Midtown Blue” is a joint program of a nonprofit organization called the Midtown Alliance and a Midtown community improvement district, which is a self-taxing group of commercial property owners. In Buckhead, the CID and the Coalition have a similar relationship, and the CID recently launched a one-car private security patrol using off-duty APD officers. Durrett became the leader of both organizations this year in an unprecedented move and told NPU B that as the Coalition is “reinventing” itself, public safety is its “big emphasis.”
The Coalition and the Atlanta Police Foundation hosted a private Sept. 24 virtual meeting about “Buckhead Blue” and other crime-fighting concepts that also included Buckhead CID officials and interim Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant. Durrett denied the Reporter’s request to attend and cover that meeting.
Durrett told NPU B that a “Buckhead Blue” type of program could be smaller-scale, such as an “augmented” version of the current CID patrol and more coordination with the many existing private patrols of off-duty officers hired by neighborhood associations.
The CID patrol is currently funded through the end of the year, Durrett said, and will be evaluated for its effectiveness for continuation or expansion. He said the informal opinion at the moment is that the patrol is doing well.
Further discussions about “Buckhead Blue” will include members of Buckhead’s NPUs A, B and C, Durrett said.