Business owners in a wealthy Atlanta neighborhood are paying out of pocket for extra police protection after a local group raised $500,000 to help tackle soaring crime rates.
The group will pay off-duty Atlanta police officers to patrol commercial areas, including malls. To aid in their efforts, the Atlanta Police Foundation also provided three police cruisers.
In 2020, Buckhead was one of the hardest hit areas in Atlanta following the riots and looting that took place following the death of George Floyd.
Off-duty cops will have full authority to arrest suspects, according to Atlanta Police Department Chief Darin Schierbaum. This comes just months after Buckhead failed to part ways with Atlanta.
The program is managed by the Buckhead Safety Alliance. The group’s coordinator, Debra Wathen, told a press conference on Monday that the $500,000 will cover security costs for 12 months – and they will continue to fundraise.
Members of the Buckhead Safety Alliance announce the launch of their new police force
Alliance members raised around $500,000 to pay off-duty Atlanta cops to patrol the Buckhead section
In 2020, Buckhead was one of the hardest hit areas in Atlanta following the riots and looting that took place after the death of George Floyd
The new officers will focus on vehicle and retail thieves, which activists say are targeting the area. Each Buckhead police cruiser will have a dedicated mobile number which will be given to local business owners. Those in need of assistance are asked to call 911 first and then a local police cruiser.
Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood said at Monday’s press event that private security protection in the more residential sections of Buckhead has proven effective in reducing crime in recent years.
“Buckhead neighborhoods for the past two decades have had security patrols in their neighborhoods and it has been an effective crime deterrent,” Norwood said.
“These security patrols will make us safer in Buckhead, for our residents and our visitors,” she added, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Another activist, Jim Durrett, said Axios that one of the most common crimes in the area is criminals breaking into cars in search of firearms.
“I think it will be a success,” said resident Mimi Maslia. Atlanta Fox.
At the same news conference, Chief Schierbaum said the city’s homicide level was approaching the low it was before the Covid-19 pandemic, down 40% so far this year.
In 2022, the department opened a new police station in the area. This year, Georgia House President Jon Burns injected funds into the state budget to allow the Georgia State Patrol to open an office in Buckhead.
Crime in Atlanta has been on the rise for several years – like many major metropolitan areas – and control has yet to be effectively seized by law enforcement.
Protesters in the Buckhead section of Atlanta following the death of George Floyd
The chief said the Buckhead force would be able to respond to 911 calls from residents more quickly. Local police commander Major Allen Mitchell told the media that there had been successive reductions in crime in the area over the past two years.
Buckhead is following the plan laid out by St. Louis Neighborhoods that launched a private police force in 2022, according to ProPublica.
A similar movement happened in the Lincoln Park section of Chicago in 2022, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The apparent need for private security forces has accelerated in recent years.
“We’ve seen private security grow rapidly for 30 years or more in the United States,” said Darrel Stephens, co-director of the Policing, Security Technology, and Private Security Research & Policy Institute at Florida State University. NewsNation in 2022.
Earlier this year, Georgia senators torpedoed efforts by the Buckhead city committee to split Atlanta and Buckhead into two separate municipalities, the measure failing by a 33-23 vote. Ten state Senate Republicans joined all of the Democrats in the chamber to reject the proposal.
If the bill had been successful, it would have held a referendum on creating a new city that could have shone a spotlight on the efforts of a wealthier, predominantly white neighborhood to secede from the poorer, more black city. in the heart of the Great South. larger urban area.
BUCKHEAD, GEORGIA: ONE OF THE RICHEST ZIP CODES IN THE NATION
Buckhead is known as the commercial and residential district of Atlanta, famous for its high-rise buildings and shopping malls, hotels, and mansions.
The neighborhood is a historically wealthy neighborhood and was once ranked the ninth-richest ZIP code in the country with a median home price of $1,460,595, according to Forbes.
Luxury American Suburban Home in Buckhead, Atlanta
Bloomberg named Buckhead the 20th richest ZIP code in the country in 2011, when the average household net worth there was $1,353,189.
The average household income was $280,631.
For this reason, Buckhead is often referred to as the “Beverly Hills of the Southeast”, in reference to the upscale town in California.
Buckhead is also known to have a few notable residents, including Georgia Republican Kelly Loeffler.
Loeffler was among the wealthiest members of Congress until she lost her seat in January 2021. In 2009, she and her husband spent more than $10 million on a European-style mansion named Descante in the neighborhood of Buckhead.
The vote came after Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive adviser David Dove released a memo that raised a dozen concerns about the constitutionalist de-annexing parts of an established city.
Several days after the motion was defeated, Bill White, who spearheaded the effort for three years, emailed supporters of the effort saying goodbye “for now.”
“Unfortunately, now that Governor Kemp has shown that he does not support our right to vote, there is no way forward for a referendum on the city as long as he remains governor until the end of his term. term in 2026,” he wrote.
White now says “there’s no point being here”, in Buckhead, and will soon pack up the home he shared with her husband and move into their newly renovated home on Lake Burton in North Georgia.
He told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the couple planned to move to a place like Florida – where there are no income taxes.
“We have to leave for our own well-being and sanity,” he said.
On April 4, White posted an Instagram of the now-closed Buckhead Town Committee offices and wrote, “Good luck Buckhead… Head Office is now officially closed.”
The Buckhead town committee had raised $2.5 million from 4,000 donors under White’s leadership in recent years. That money is now gone, and the $15,000-a-month office space the organization had rented is packed and empty.
The movement, at its peak, drew the support of former President Donald Trump and the attention of former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, whom White spoke to live about the effort.
Now others will have to carry the banner forward. However, some members of the group are looking to “potentially sue him (Governor Brian Kemp) to establish the basis that Buckhead City is of course constitutional and to refute the information in this memo,” White said.
“It does not change this vote, but there is a possibility of retaking it in an appropriate procedure.”
The homicide rate in Atlanta climb last year to 161 – the highest number since 1996. This figure fell from 157 in 2020 to 99 in 2019.
Burglaries, shoplifting and carjackings have also increased significantly.
The secession proposal would have, like all divorces, taken property into consideration.
Under the failed legislation, Buckhead City would have been allowed to acquire Atlanta Park land within its boundaries for just $100,000 per acre, despite an acre in the neighborhood commanding 10 times that amount.
Atlanta would also have been required to divide all assets outside of its city limits with Buckhead City’s proposed boundaries or sell them and share the proceeds.
The Georgia legislature has historically allowed unincorporated areas around Atlanta to vote for their own cities for about 20 years.
However, during this period he allowed only one vote to leave – the wealthy town of Stockbridge, where residents of the subdivision rejected secession in 2018.
In 2021, the last time the proposal to leave town was sent to the state legislature, about 80% of the community had planned to vote in favor of separation.
Buckhead’s population is 73.5% white and 23.9% black. That compares to Atlanta’s broader population, which is 50.7% black and 38% white, according to census data.