Midtown communities face rising crime rates

Midtown communities face rising crime rates

Park Li

SMASHED IN: Thieves break the window of junior Harper Gambill’s car outside his Mornginside home. They escaped with a handful of change. Crimes like this have been increasing since May in Atlanta’s Midtown area.
SMASHED IN: Thieves break the window of junior Harper Gambill’s car outside his Mornginside home. They
escaped with a handful of change. Crimes like this have been increasing since May in Atlanta’s Midtown area.

By: Park Li and Sam Lombardo

On June 19, a female driver was rear ended on Avery Drive. She got out of her car to try and speak to the driver who rear ended her when a man darted out the passenger side of the other car, jumped into her car, and drove off with it. Both vehicles left her stranded. Since then, the crime rate in metro Atlanta has only risen.

Atlanta City officials, including Mayor Kasim Reed, met on Oct. 7 to conduct an urgent meeting to discuss the recent crime spike in Midtown. The mayor addressed many specific concerns of residents, and addressed broader concerns by promising to implement more technology, such as cameras, and deploy more officers to try to reduce the crime.

The Atlanta Police Department divides Atlanta into 6 zones. In Zone 5 (Grady’s zone), the crimes of aggravated assault have increased by 16.57 percent, auto theft by 7.37 percent, and residential burglary has gone up 22.3 percent. In Zone 6, which lies to the east of Grady, there is a 100 percent increase in homicide, and small increases in vehicle-related offenses.  The spike in crime is particularly worrying because it is occurring in the affluent Zone 5 and Zone 6 which are typically characterized by low crime.  Residents have taken notice and are starting to get worried.

One of these areas is Ansley Park which is generally a quiet neighborhood north of Grady High School in Zone 5, but this year things are a little different. Plagued by a series of unprecedented residential break-ins and even a carjacking, resident Meredith Bell, is starting to feel some backlash of the crime.

“In the past few months, I have started to feel apprehensive if I’m out alone at night,” Bell said. “Police visibility is definitely key, but increased police presence is not going to solve the whole problem.”

In one of the neighborhood’s online communities, Ansley Next Door, there is even talk of organizing a self patrol and revitalizing a long untouched neighborhood watch system. It’s concerns like these that have prompted a swift response from Mayor Reed and his administration. Their new policies aim to place more officers in less policed areas to reduce  crime. Reed also pledged to re-wire all of the surveillance cameras in the city so that APD headquarters can monitor them at all times in an effort to help stop crimes in progress.

“We need more cameras, and every porch should have a light on,”  Susan Khayat, a Virginia Highland resident said.

Grady student Harper Gambill, hasn’t just heard about the crime, he’s been a target. Several weeks ago his car window was smashed and the money in his glove compartment was gone.

“A couple of cars have been robbed in the Morningside area, but this is the first time it’s happened to my family,” Gambill said.

 Despite the growing concern among residents, it is possible that Atlanta is experiencing a normal period of increased crime, and residents are just being particularly vocal about it.

“The Atlanta Police Department utilizes historical crime data as well as technology to determine allocation of department resources,” APD spokesman and former officer, Ralph Woolfolk, said. “Crimes within specific geographical areas can fluctuate over time; however, we are constantly monitoring crime trends, motives and patterns throughout the entire City of Atlanta.”

APD cannot point to a direct cause of  increased crime  in Zone 5. Some residents have speculated  why crime has risen in the past few months.

Morningside resident Philip Khayat said he suspects that the majority of the crimes committed in Zone 5 are a result of just a handful of criminals.

“There have probably been a few people who got away with their crime in that area, so they continue to go back for the easy target,” said Khayat. “I would guess that the reasoning behind the increase in crime is a combination of the medium income going up in that area, making those wealthier people a target. Especially considering that Midtown is right on the line of a low income area.”

These inclinations are correct, however, the Atlanta Repeat Offender Commission wrote a report on repeat offenders currently in Atlanta. The commission discovered that 461 individuals committed more than 14,000 crimes; of those individuals, just 16 of them received actual prison time.

Grady Student Connor Downey fell victim to one of these repeat offenders. Downey was walking home from a dual enrollment class at Georgia State on November 12 when he was attacked by a man known as The Midtown Puncher.

“A guy came up from behind me, totally by surprise, and shouldered me,” Downey said. “The side of my head slammed into the pavement.”

Despite the incident, Downey said it hasn’t affected any of his normal daily patterns.

According to New York Times, crime generally has an uptake in the summer months. The Atlanta Police Department suspects that the number of crimes in Zone 5, and all of Atlanta, will die down as it gets colder. Despite the decrease in crime throughout Atlanta as a whole in the past year, certain crimes have risen significantly in Zone 5 and Zone 6. “I think the main thing is for people to be aware,” Downey said.

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