Amid complaints about rising crime, the Atlanta Police Department will shrink the boundaries of the police patrol zone that covers Buckhead with the hope of faster response times for 911 calls.
“Our goal with the redesign is to ensure that no zone is disproportionately handling too many calls,” Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The department announced the changes in a news release.
Four police coverage areas — including two in Buckhead — will be redrawn as part of a realignment plan. The latest changes mean two areas now inside the patrol zone that covers Buckhead and northeast Atlanta, Zone 2, will be moved into other zones.
Atlanta police divide the city into six geographical areas or zones, which are then divided in to 13 to 14 beats for officers to patrol.
Police departments typically do a beat realignment to adjust officer workload as traffic patterns and population changes. The department previously did a beat realignment in 2011.
“I’m hoping at least initially this can help us in the response times to calls,” Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said Tuesday during a presentation at the City Council’s public safety committee meeting.
Right now, Buckhead’s Zone 2 has the longest response time at 13 minutes and 32 seconds for high-priority calls, such as those involving injuries, carjackings or home invasions. East Atlanta’s Zone 6 has the lowest at just under 10 minutes.
Police officials have not specified what response time they are trying to achieve with the realignment.
“The goal is to see that there is consistency in response times,” Shields told the AJC after the meeting.
Campos said the department worked with Georgia Tech researchers to “ensure the workload is evenly distributed throughout the department’s six zones.”
It remains unclear how the realignment of the zones might affect crime numbers for each.
“The redesign will impact crime numbers in the affected zones, either up or down,” Campos said. “Some zones are taking on more territory and some are shedding territory. “
News of the zone changes come as the Fulton County District Attorney’s office indicted three suspects — Jaquantay Campbell, 26; Michael Hill, 17; and Dundrea Phillips, 26 — in a Buckhead crime spree in late January. The 41-count indictment, handed down Tuesday, included car theft, burglary and weapons charges.
In one incident, a homeowner was assaulted when she tired to prevent Hill from stealing her car, according to a release detailing the indictment. The crime spree resulted in more than $125,000 in damages and eight stolen cars.
The changes also come after Buckhead residents confronted police chief Shields and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms at a Feb. 28 town hall that largely centered on the city’s public safety efforts.
Atlanta police officials acknowledged crime has been on the rise in Buckhead for the past 18 months, but said the patrol area known as “Zone 2,” where Buckhead sits, has seen a 7 percent drop in all crimes in January and February compared to the same months last year. On Friday, police released data showing that in the past 28 days alone, all types of crime have dropped 23 percent.
In the past three weeks, Atlanta police arrested seven people — all repeat offenders — accused of stealing cars or motorcycles from Zone 2. One man was arrested for the 70th time last week, Atlanta police said.
The following police beat changes will go into effect March 17:
Beat 203 located in Buckhead and Northwest Atlanta, also known as Zone 2, will become Beat 103 in Zone 1, which covers northwest Atlanta. The beat is home to residents in the Blandtown, Bolton, Hills Park, Riverside and Whittier Mill Village communities.
The existing Beat 103, which includes the English Avenue and west Midtown communities will become beat 506 in Zone 5, which includes Downtown.
Beat 506, which includes portions of Midtown known as the "Garden District" will then become Beat 614 in Zone 6 in east Atlanta.
Beat 213, which includes Cheshire Bridge Road and the Morningside and Piedmont Heights neighborhoods will become Beat 613 as part of Zone 6.