New Buckhead security plan could cost $1.6M; councilors donating $125K

Atlanta police detectives on Monday vowed to do anything they can to find the person who shot and killed a 7-year-old girl outside Phipps Plaza last week, as three City Council members announced a donation toward a new $1.62 million plan to address crime in Buckhead.

Kennedy Maxie was struck in the head by a stray bullet last Monday evening while in the car with her mother and aunt outside Phipps. She was in critical condition for several days and died Saturday, authorities said.

Her shooting, the 155th homicide in Atlanta this year, followed several other recent acts of violence in Buckhead’s commercial corridor and prompted public outcry that city officials are not moving forcefully enough to deal with the increase in crime. It came weeks after Buckhead’s political, business and neighborhood leaders announced a plan aimed at addressing crime in the popular and upscale area.

The “Buckhead Security Plan” is expected to cost about $1.62 million; it calls for additional police patrols around the commercial areas and a strategic grid of security cameras and license plate readers, in addition to other public safety initiatives. Officials from the city, police department, Fulton County and various Buckhead civic organizations came up with the plan over the last few months.

ExploreTensions between Atlanta mayor, councilors spill into the open after 7-year-old girl shot

The surveillance camera system is expected to cost about $800,000, a one-time investment, while the extra police patrols would cost $500,000 for one year. The Buckhead Coalition and the Atlanta Police Foundation are asking residents and businesses to donate to the plan, which also hopes to bolster the city’s Crime Stoppers reward pool and tip line and implement a communications system to connect Atlanta police with private security teams in Buckhead.

Atlanta City Council members J.P. Matzigkeit, Howard Shook and Matt Westmoreland on Monday announced they were donating a total of $125,000 from their office budgets toward the initiative. Shook and Matzigkeit both represent Buckhead council districts, while Westmoreland holds a citywide post.

“I believe in putting my money where my mouth is,” Matzigkeit said, adding that he thinks the new initiative is the best short-term solution for addressing the issue of crime in Buckhead.

Atlanta police data shows serious crimes are down overall in Buckhead and throughout the city this year compared to 2019, though murders and aggravated assaults have gone up. Buckhead’s popular shopping centers, including Phipps and Lenox Square mall, been the scene of several shootings this year. At the same time, APD is several hundred officers short of its long-cited goal of 2,000 sworn officers, Matzigkeit said.

Shook, who issued a sharp rebuke of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ administration after last week’s shooting, said his contribution is “on behalf of Kennedy Maxie.” Westmoreland said too many residents “don’t feel safe, and too many of our men and women in uniform don’t feel supported. This plan aims to change that.”

ExploreNew Buckhead security plan to address crime includes more police patrols

While the fundraising for the plan continues, the additional police patrols will begin to hit the streets in January, according to Jim Durrett, who leads the Buckhead Coalition and the Buckhead Community Improvement District. Leaders are also beginning to identify the best places for the cameras and license plate readers.

“This has been such a terrible disruption to everybody’s lives,” Durrett said, referring to the uptick in crime. “It’s hard to tackle other things when one is fearing for one’s own safety. It seems that this is the most important thing to be paying attention to right now.”

The Buckhead Security Plan also includes a list of 20 policy proposals, mostly related to citywide enforcement of local ordinances and increasing support for APD. They include cracking down on “party houses,” enforcing the city’s noise ordinance and checking building permits of “problematic establishments” in Buckhead.