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May Updates from PBA President
Posted on May 1st, 2019
You may recall that toward the end of January, Mary Norwood in her capacity as Chair of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods (BCN), wrote a letter to the mayor and council about a crime wave in Buckhead. That letter resulted in a lot of activity. The mayor held a Town Hall meeting at the History Center where Chief Shields reported on the issue and described her Department’s efforts to fix things. The primary problem, it appears, was an increase in the crime of stealing cars or stealing property from cars. Yancey McCollum, PBA’s Security Chair, checked the police reports for crime in our neighborhood, and while her research showed that crime in the neighborhood had declined overall, we too experienced an uptick in crime relating to cars. Fortunately, APD reports that those crimes have been on the decline in Zone 2 through the first part of this year.
Another issue that came to the fore as a result of Mary Norwood’s letter was a resolution BCN proposed to deal with the increase in crime, especially by repeat offenders. Nolan Leake, President of Peachtree Heights West Civic Association, and I thought that the proposed resolution was somewhat vague and included provisions that were inappropriate for BCN to adopt. So we volunteered to revise the resolution.
Although Nolan and I are both retired lawyers—he from King & Spalding, me from Alston & Bird—neither of us knew much about criminal law or the criminal process. So we set out on a crash course that included a lengthy meeting with District Attorney Paul Howard and some of his staff, conversations with several police officers, correspondence with Chief Shields, general research and a day in the Fulton County jail at something called First Appearance (the first time at which a defendant can apply for a bail bond).
As a result of all this, we significantly revised the BCN resolution and made it much more palatable to organizations like PBA. PBA’s board has now approved the resolution.
But we also learned that the problem of crime in Buckhead, particularly from repeat offenders, does not originate at one level of government. The problem is not the City’s alone. It involves not only the City, but also Fulton County, the judiciary, the State Department of Corrections, the State department that provides probation officers, and State law relating to juvenile offenders. Unfortunately there is no silver bullet to fix things. More work needs to be done to analyze the problems, develop solutions and then implement them.
You have no doubt noticed that the City’s Department of Watershed Management has completed its work on Howell Mill, and the Howell Mill bridge is now open. Their work has now shifted to Peachtree Battle.
Now comes the work to repair the bridge itself. Through the efforts of Kirk Rankin, Co Chair of our Traffic Committee, the City’s Department of Public Works has agreed to delay its work on the Howell Mill bridge until GDOT completes its utility work on Northside.
We are in the process of arranging a second meeting among affected neighborhood organizations, the City and GDOT to implement the suggestions the neighborhood organizations provided to minimize the impact of the closure of Northside when the new bridge there is under construction during the summer of 2020. We expect that meeting to take place on May 15.