At a well-attended town hall meeting on the subject of public safety Thursday night, Council President Lisa Borders put forth an interesting idea that could hold promise for oft-burgled Southside residents: a community improvement district to help fund extra security.
Borders, who hosted the gathering at Cascade United Methodist Church, suggested that money for surveillance cameras, community patrols and other security measures could be generated by creating a self-taxing district to which commercial property owners would contribute.
It's an intriguing idea. There are a number of very successful CIDs around metro Atlanta the Galleria and Perimeter areas and central Buckhead, perhaps most prominently that fund everything from landscaped medians to shuttle buses to fancy lamp posts.
But I believe I heard Borders say there are no CIDs south of I-20. If that's the case, it's surely because there's simply not the concentration of commercial property to support such an effort. It's one thing to talk Perimeter Mall, Cousins Properties and Barry Real Estate into ponying up to spruce up the neighborhood. But when you're dealing with a bunch of mom-and-pop businesses, as well as a hefty number of vacant storefronts well, that's a tougher sell.
Still, the kind of security enhancements Borders is talking about would be much less costly than the ambitious transportation improvements that have been done in well-heeled parts of town.
On the other hand, it's certainly not a quick fix. Any new CID has to be approved by property owner referendum and by the General Assembly, something that likely wouldn't happen until next year at the earliest.
In the shorter term, Borders proposed siting a new combo police/fire station near the intersection of Cascade Road and I-285, although it was pointed out that the property she has in mind lies just outside the city limits.
But nobody offered a solution to the police furloughs that have resulted in a 10-percent drop in patrol man-hours at a time when the number of burglaries seems to be soaring. One man at the meeting said half the houses on his middle-class street had been burglarized in the past few months, sometimes repeatedly. One couple's home on that street had been broken into and robbed five times, not including a sixth, failed attempt. Their 5-year-old daughter can't sleep at night because she's now afraid to be at home. That's harsh.
Although only Borders spoke, many local pols turned out to the meeting, including Council members Ivory Young, Lamar Willis, C.T. Martin, Jim Maddox and Mary Norwood, who's running for mayor. Also seen were ex-Councilman Michael Bond and Fulton Commissioner Bill Edwards.
I didn't get the impression, however, that as people got up to go home, they felt much safer.
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