Elected officials, Atlanta Police Department officers and representatives from several Buckhead community organizations gathered on W Paces Ferry Road May 22 for a proverbial ribbon cutting on the Buckhead Safety Alliance’s security patrols. The patrols began in earnest several weeks ago, but Monday’s event — which included comments from Atlanta City Council District 8 representative Mary Norwood, Atlanta Police Department Chief Darin Schierbaum and others — was intended to spread the word about the safety initiative.
Debra Wathen of the Buckhead Safety Alliance (BSA) and Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods said public knowledge and support of the BSA’s security patrols are particularly vital given the initiative is funded solely through donations. Funding is secure in the short-term, Wathen said, but the long-term viability of the patrols is dependent on continued financial support from the Buckhead community.
The BSA’s patrols employ off-duty APD officers with “full arrest powers” to patrol five commercial corridors throughout Buckhead — identified by the Buckhead Public Safety Task Force —in donated APD cruisers. Currently, the patrols are conducted with two cruisers, and another is expected to begin operating in the coming months.
“The crime statistics show that the commercial corridors is where the crime is, so we want to patrol where the crime is, and these officers have been trained to do that,” Wathen said.
Additionally, Wathen announced each of the BSA’s patrol cars will have a direct cell phone number that BSA members can call directly with concerns.
APD Chief Schierbaum said the BSA patrols will allow officers to better assist with traffic control, respond to 911 calls, “and [be] proactive to address criminal behavior where it may arise.”
The patrols began several weeks ago, so not enough time has passed to judge their overall effectiveness through crime statistics, Wathen said. She added that Maj. Ailen Mitchell of APD Zone 2, who also spoke at Monday’s event, will be monitoring the statistics closely to manage the impacts of the patrols.
“If the statistics show that crime is down in these corridors, then you’ll know they are effective,” Wathen said.
“The financial commitment for these patrols is not insignificant,” Wathen said, noting the program will require about $570,000 annually to operate. Though the patrols are off to an auspicious start with the donation of police cruisers from the Atlanta Police Foundation and a $250,000 contribution from the Buckhead Coalition, long-term funding will be needed from the community at large.
“We have plenty of money to get us through 2023 and into 2024, but what we need to do is raise money for 2024 and beyond,” Wathen said. “That’s really what we’re raising for now. We’d love to have a police car for every corridor. Right now we’re sharing three police cars among the five corridors.”
With long-term funding still in the air, Wathen said Monday’s event was held primarily to bring public attention to the BSA’s patrols and, in turn, drum-up continued backing.
“It’s important for the community to know because we need their support to keep it going,” she said. “It’s all donation based. Businesses have been very gracious to this point, but we need the small businesses and our individuals to come forward with donations. I know they have been doing patrols in their neighborhoods forever, but this has a little bit of a different twist to it, and I think it’s going to make a huge difference. And having Chief Schierbaum here sort of indicates [the APD] agrees this is going to make a difference in crime.” Wathen said those interested in donating to the BSA’s patrols can visit the organization’s website, buckheadsafety.org, or donate through the Atlanta Police Foundation.