January 13, 2016

VaHi Safety Team Report Weeks 49 and 52 (11/29/15 – 12/28/15)

News and Notes

Active Shooter Incident Civilian Response

Recently we have seen many news stories about active shooter incidents around the country. Fortunately, such incidents are still quite rare, but it doesn’t hurt to be aware and be prepared. 

Law enforcement officials are promoting the strategy of “Run, Hide, Fight” for civilians. This means that you should first attempt to evacuate the area. If this is not possible, you should find a good place to hide from the shooter. And finally if neither of these options are possible and you are confronted with the shooter, you should fight as a last resort.

The Atlanta Police Department has distributed a video that explains these actions in detail. You can view the seven minute video here https://youtu.be/VPAqw1wXUfw.

In addition, Crestridge street captain, Linda Edmunds, prepared a “Cliff notes” version of the video. You can see these notes on the Virginia Highland Security Patrol (FBAC) website here http://www.fbacvahi.com/2016/01/run-hide-fight-your-response-to-active.html.

As always, this information is not offered to make anyone afraid, or to suggest that an active shooter incident in the neighborhood or our workplaces is likely. Thinking through possible scenarios just serves to help us be more aware and to make our best response in any unexpected situation.

Wheel Theft and Smash & Grab Crime in Virginia Highland

In the past two months we have seen several incidents where wheels have been stripped from vehicles and store windows have been broken with merchandise stolen. These types of crimes are happening all over the City of Atlanta – especially in Zones, 2, 6 and 5. It is likely that this is the work of a few groups repeating the same crimes in the same areas. 

Some residents and business owners have asked for increased patrols in the belief that an increased police presence will stop these thefts. However, the odds of catching members of these crews in the act as extremely low. It is more likely that the thieves will be caught because of a tip from the public or mistakes that they make, such as leaving finger prints behind. 

Detectives, beat officers and undercover officers are working hard to developing leads, and the Virginia Highland Security Patrol (FBAC) and Atlanta Police Department are working closely to bring these criminals to justice.

2015 Wrap Up

Though no crime is acceptable, Virginia-Highland remains one of the safest neighborhoods in the City of Atlanta. Many things happened during the year to contribute to that safety.

During 2015 we saw increased communication with Atlanta Police Department. We had written communications coming directly to the neighborhood from both Major Timothy Peek, Zone 6 Commander, and Deputy Chief Spillane. In addition, APD command staff held a special safety meeting facilitated by Councilman Alex Wan and the Virginia Highland Civic Association. APD has also increased their use of social media to communicate with the public via their YouTube channel, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

One very bright spot for public safety this year was the revival of the Fulton County District Attorney’s Citizen CourtWatch program. With the appointment of Danielle Simpson, JD as the CourtWatch Coordinator, we once again have a voice in sentencing of the criminals who prey on our neighborhood. Already this year CourtWatchers have participated in several hearings by submitting community impact statements and appearing in court.

As I look back on 2015 it has been an interesting year for me as I slowly assume more responsibility for leading the neighborhood watch program. All I can say is that I am learning more each week, meeting wonderful and dedicated people, and I’m thankful that John is still here to coach me. We are also fortunate to have so many dedicated street captains who turned out for our neighborhood watch annual meeting in September.

In addition to all the many great things John does for neighborhood watch, FBAC and other programs. We also have to thank him for being the driving force behind Virginia-Highland’s participation in the Zone 6 toy drive. This year John collected six car loads full of toys, and also coordinated the donation of several bicycles and bike helmets. Reports from those who volunteered to help set-up and serve during the party told us that the children were thrilled. Thanks also to Officer Felicia Dodson who put the whole toy drive and party together for Zone 6. Office Dodson is also the person who provides all of the data for the reports we send to you each month, and we couldn’t do that without her hard work.

Kudos also go to Nancy Safay and Sgt. Chris Clark for doing a great job with Virginia Highland Security Patrol (aka FBAC). The program now has more members than at any time in the previous 25 years, and I often hear comments from members about how helpful Nan has been when they had a question or needed help. In addition to supervising FBAC patrols, Chris coordinated security for Summerfest in 2015 as he has for many years. You might expect that we would see a spike in crime over Summerfest weekend with so many visitors to the neighborhood, but in fact the numbers tell a different story. That was one of the lowest weeks of the year for auto break-ins. Another reminder that crowded streets and venues have their advantages.

For several years now Keep Virginia Highland Beautiful, ably led by Tim Langan, has been working to improve the appearance of our commercial sectors. In addition to two successful clean-ups this year, it appears that more and more residents and business owners are taking the initiative to police illegal signs on poles and in the public right of way, to pick up litter, and to control weeds. On my daily walks around the neighborhood I am often finding that a sign I planned to remove is already gone, or a messy sidewalk has been cleaned up. I hope we can do even better in 2016.

In addition to facilitating a meeting for the neighborhood with APD command staff, the VHCA safety committee has made a big difference during 2015 on road and street safety, thanks to Peggy Berg. The team is also now generating a monthly graphic snapshot of safety statistics, and going forward will increase emphasis on lighting and on house number signage, which is critical for first responders to get to our homes quickly.

I often think that statistics can be deceiving and bent out of shape to make any point, so I won’t belabor the numbers. I will say that with twelve beats in Zone 6 (Virginia-Highland is Beat 601) and all things being equal, you could expect that we would experience 8.33% of the crime in the Zone.

But of course all things are not equal. As a result, of the most violent crimes (homicide and rape) we were mostly spared. We did have seventeen pedestrian robberies (about 7% of the Zone 6 total), but only 3.8% of the residential burglaries (twenty-two for us). Commercial burglaries, including recent smash and grab incidents at several neighborhood retailers, accounted for 7.8% of the Zone’s 123 break-ins. 

The one place where Virginia-Highland continues to stand out is in the area of larceny from vehicles. During 2015 we experienced 172 vehicle break-ins, which represents 9.7% of the Zone total of 1,781. Though nothing can prevent all of these crimes, let’s work together to reduce that number significantly. Help spread the word about the clean car campaign, and report all suspicious behavior by calling 911!

Upcoming Meetings

Virginia-Highland Civic Association – 2nd Monday 7pm at Fulton County Library on Ponce.
NPU F – 3rd Monday 7pm at Hillside off Monroe.

Crime Statistics – Note report is for four weeks of data

The following information is taken from our APD Zone 6 report (http://atlantapd.org/Zone6.aspx).
It includes information from the Virginia-Highland Beat 601 reported incidents along with relevant reports from other nearby beats. Keep in mind that not all incidents are reported. A map showing the location of beats 601 – 612 within Zone 6 can be found at this link http://boundaries.atlantapd.org/Map-Zone6-Beats.aspx. This information is not shared to scare anyone, but to let you know what happens around us every day so you can be alert and aware.

Homicide None reported in Beat 601 and none in Zone 6.

Rape None reported in Beat 601 and 2 reported in Zone 6.

Pedestrian/Carjacking Robbery One reported in Beat 601 and 17 reported in Zone 6.
On December 6th a woman parked her vehicle on Maiden Lane and then walked to a nearby bar. At the end of the evening her friends drove her back to her car. As soon as they drove off, two men drove up behind her. They exited their vehicle and demanded her belongings. She refused and one suspect struck her in the face and stole her purse. This is a good reminder that you should always see your friend safely into their car and that the car starts before driving away.

Residential Robbery None reported in Beat 601 and one reported in Zone 6
Commercial Robbery None reported in beat 601 and five reported in Zone 6.

Aggravated Assault One reported in Beat 601 and nineteen reported in Zone 6.
On December 23rd a resident of apartments on Virginia Ave and a friend exited their building and saw suspects in the friend’s car. The resident gave chase and the suspects shot at him with a handgun. Fortunately, he was not hurt and one suspect dropped the backpack he had stolen. However, the resident was very lucky not to have been injured. Despite our instincts to protect our property, it is always best to assume that suspects are armed and willing to shoot. Focus on staying safe and calling 911 rather than giving chase.

Residential Burglary Two reported in Beat 601 and fifty-five reported in Zone 6.
On December 10th the door of an apartment on N. Highland was kicked in and a camera was stolen.
On December 23rd the door of an apartment on Monroe was pried open and jewelry, clothing and a laptop were stolen.

Commercial Burglary Two reported in Beat 601 and twelve reported in Zone 6.
On November 30th the suspect apparently reached through the mail slot of a business on Ponce de Leon and unlocked the door. A laptop was stolen.
On December 1st suspects smashed the front door and stole apparel and accessories from Threadz on St. Charles. This retailer has been hit several times during 2015 and is apparently a target because of the high end merchandise that is easy to resell.
On December 11th at Ponce Denim Co., a retailer at Ponce City Market, rocks were thrown through a window and eight suspects stole approximately $30,000 in merchandise. Video is available of the theft.
Though not in Beat 601, the office at Oakland Cemetery was burglarized and the cash register and jewelry was stolen on November 29th around midnight.

Larceny From Vehicle Twenty-three reported in Beat 601 and one hundred and thirty-two reported in Zone 6.
Vehicles were entered on Barnett, Drewry, Ponce de Leon, Los Angeles, N. Highland, Rosedale Rd., St. Charles, Virginia, and parking lots of American Road House, Chow Baby, Hand and Hand, The Carlton, The Local, U.S. Post Office, and the former Aurora. Taken were a rifle, computer bags, hand bags, laptops, luggage, prescription medication, golf clubs, and a catalytic converter. Entry was made via broken windows and in a couple of cased by drilling or punching a hole under the handle of the door.
Elsewhere in the zone suspects stole four unsecured handguns, and over $7,000 cash.

Other Larcenies Five reported in Beat 601 and ninety-three reported in Zone 6.
In one case items were stolen from a residence when they had people over to watch a football game. In another a bar patron set her phone down and it was taken while she was distracted. Another locked bicycle was stolen from an apartment stairwell. Please try to take bicycles inside your secured residence.
At Friend’s on Ponce a patron placed his back pack behind his seat and fifteen minutes later it was missing. Halfmoon Outfitters also reported a shoplifting incident, and an Inman Middle School student had his iPhone stolen from his backpack
For a different twist, the victim booted a vehicle and when he came back the next day he found both the car and his boot were missing.

Auto Theft None reported in Beat 601 and thirty-four reported in Zone 6.
If this report was forwarded to you and you would like to be added to the distribution, please send a message to me at VaHiSafety@gmail.com with your name, email address, and affiliation. Thanks.

Stay Safe!

Kay Stephenson

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