Thursday, July 11, 2013

Hundreds turn out for Grant Park meeting on public safety

Posted By on Thu, Jul 11, 2013 at 1:01 PM

More than 300 people packed a Zoo Atlanta auditorium to raise awareness about public safety
Over the past year, Peoplestown resident Jackson Faw has seen his fellow community members grow increasingly frustrated with the recent uptick in break-ins, robberies, and murders in southeast Atlanta.

He's watched a nearby neighborhood's resident announce on Facebook she was selling her home. He's seen kids raised from the area become suspects. And he's watched residents urge others to arm themselves. Last week, Faw says, someone even broke into his own home.

Faw and more than 300 residents and neighborhood leaders from eight surrounding communities - including Grant Park, East Atlanta, Peoplestown, Kirkwood, Ormewood Park, and Chosewood Park - gathered last night at the Zoo Atlanta auditorium to show solidarity, push police for answers, and brainstorm ways to reduce crime. The latest rash of incidents, they say, has spurred a call for more police patrols and additional measures to address the root causes of criminal behavior.

Faw told the crowd, which included Atlanta City Councilmembers who represent the area, DeKalb County commissioner Larry Johnson, and state Rep. Margaret Kaiser, D-Atlanta, that "we have to stop thinking the state gives a crap about us" and consider new ways to raise revenue to pay for police protection. His ideas ranged from increasing street traffic violations issued by police officers to placing tolls on roads leading into the city (local residents would be exempted). He also proposed ending summer vacations for K-12 students, which he says is an outdated policy.

Questions were also raised about whether cash from Atlanta Braves game parking revenues could be used to help fund security patrols. Others wondered how the city could target graffiti-covered areas, combat the rise of gangs, and crack down on - or demolish - vacant homes attracting criminal activity.

At one point, tensions flared as residents debated whether the people committing the crimes were simply "kids" or "criminals."

Law enforcement authorities from Atlanta, Decatur, and DeKalb County told the crowd they were collaborating to target the crimes, some of which could be linked. DeKalb County Police Chief Cedric Alexander told the crowd that, effective last night, 20 to 25 additional police officers would patrol the general area where the crimes were being committed, a surge the department plans to sustain "as long as we can." DeKalb Police recently arrested four suspects between the ages of 14 and 19, Alexander said, and uncovered evidence that could possibly link them to recent crimes.

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