Gwinnett Village seeks to make it safer for businesses, residents

The Gwinnett Village CID is taking steps to improve security in southwestern Gwinnett County at a time when the county is reducing its police ranks.

Partnering with its non-profit arm, Gwinnett Village Community Alliance, CID hopes to extend security measures beyond the business district and into residential areas, according to Bruce LeVell, CID vice chairman. By law, a CID can only spend its resources to benefit the business community.

Already it’s seen a 40 percent decrease in burglaries since the CID hired a private security firm in February, LeVell said.

Now, the CID wants to spread the protection by revitalizing Neighborhood Watch programs, incorporating new technology to share intelligence, contracting with the Georgia Highway Patrol and instituting an “Officer Next Door” program.

Gwinnett Village covers 17 square miles in southern Gwinnett, including business corridors along Buford Highway, Jimmy Carter Boulevard and I-85.

LeVell said negotiations with the Georgia State Patrol have been ongoing for two years, and a contract is in the works to have officers monitor traffic in the business district. Such a move, he said, would free county police to patrol for criminal activity.

This would be the first time the State Patrol has entered into an intergovernmental agreement for its services, said Gordy Wright, Georgia Department of Public Safety spokesman.

The CID is also working to establish a crime intelligence network that would allow businesses to exchange information, such as suspicious vehicles.

“It gets the community talking and gossiping,” LeVell said. “We want gossip.”

The Community Alliance, operating through donations and grants, hopes to expand Neighborhood Watch by canvassing apartment buildings and residential areas, said executive director Letycia Pastrana.

Similarly, the Community Alliance is pursuing an Officer Next Door program that would provide financial incentives to have police officers buy homes in the area. It has partnered with the Impact Group, a non-profit agency specializing in real estate development, transitional housing and home ownership counseling and assistance.

Police are receptive to the program, Pastrana said, but it hasn’t succeeded because it hasn’t been promoted correctly.

Before the effort takes root, she said, it needs marketing dollars in the form of donations and grant funding.

“One thing the Community Alliance does that the CID cannot do is really go into the communities and educate them (about these initiatives),” Pastrana said.