Murders, gangs must go

“I’m outta here! Loved being downtown for three years but hated not feeling safe. Good luck to you soldiers continuing the good fight!”

This was a recent Facebook post from a Peoplestown neighbor. In intown Atlanta neighborhoods south of the railroad tracks, a recent spate of ugly, violent crime has spurred outrage and, for some, a desire to leave. For others, it’s created a renewed belief in the power of communities working together.

In a recent meeting of eight communities, a fellow East Atlanta Village community leader said it best: “All we want is to work in our flower beds and see our wives and children walk through the park without the fear of being shot to death by a stranger. We like it here; we don’t want to leave. Especially under the terms of heartless thugs.”

Mayor Kasim Reed is asking residents for help. Intown Atlanta residents are beginning to enact pragmatic approaches to answering the mayor’s call to action: Identify the leaders responsible, create report cards and progress reports, then kick, scream and vote until the murders stop and the gangs go.

In the most crime-infested areas in the United States, a novel approach to law enforcement is having success: Dedicated officers embed in community, becoming friends and confidants to the citizens. Once these cops become part of the community, the 99percent of residents who are not bad guys begin to feel safe to report crime.

To sustain its goal of being the best major metropolitan city in the country to live in and do business, Atlanta must continue to find alternative revenue streams to fund solutions for crime prevention and treatment. The recent T-SPLOST failure confirmed that the rest of the state doesn’t care about Atlanta’s problems. Ideas for raising revenues, without increasing property taxes, include:

* Enforce traffic violations, including HOV lane “cheaters” and speeders on the Downtown Connector and in neighborhoods.

* Erect toll booths for access into the city, like London’s “Congestion Charge” tolls. A local resident exemption would put the cost burden on non-Atlantans and encourage green “live-where-you-work” housing construction.

* Increase and enforce fees for property owners who allow properties to remain vacant for more than two months.

* Include commercial vehicles in parking violations. New York City collected $2.1 million in fees from FedEx and UPS in the first quarter of 2013.

My neighbors and I are convinced there are too many great things and too many good people who live here around the Braves stadium and Zoo Atlanta for the bad guys to prevail. As I posted to our neighbor’s Facebook farewell above: “I’m an eternal optimist, and hold on to hope our leaders will get their acts together and do the courageous things that have to be done. To do anything else is to let lawlessness prevail, and that signals the downfall of the greatest country the world has ever known.”

Jackson Faw is a Peoplestown neighborhood leader.