An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

To help aid the selection of the next permanent superintendent of the district, the Atlanta Board of Education has formed a community panel of more than 15 parents, teachers, students and community leaders.
Community advisory panel formed to advise district superintendent selection
Shalin BhatiaApril 22, 2024

The Atlanta Board of Education has formed a community panel of parents, teachers, students and community leaders to provide community input in...

Streak of summer car break-ins in community raise parking concerns

An incident on Aug. 15 caused over 60 residents in Midtown East to wake up to a smashed window on their car.

A recent uptick of car break-ins in the Midtown East area is raising concerns for many Midtown students who use street parking in the neighborhood for school. 

“We definitely do not have enough parking, and it is a shame that students and teachers are pushed out into an area where we can’t patrol,” Midtown Principal Dr. Betsy Bockman said. “The officers do a great job patrolling the student lots, but that cannot cover all students.”

Vehicle theft accounted for 48 percent of all crimes in the Midtown Improvement District in 2022 with over 258 cases, according to a report from the Atlanta Police Department. Midtown’s Resource Officer Derrick Hammond has been working at the school for eight years and finds the recent uptick disconcerting.

“In all my time working here, I’ve never seen anything like this on surrounding streets,” Hammond said. “The students that have to park on the streets need to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings.”

On Aug. 15, at around 1 a.m., about 60 cars were broken into on Vedado Way and Charles Allen Drive, which connect to the school. Midtown Neighbors Association safety chairperson Paul Luppino believes these events align with a national trend of property theft and smash-and-grab car theft.

“It is happening everywhere and we saw a big national increase after Covid in 2021,” Luppino said. “As a neighborhood, I feel like we’ve recently experienced larger events where a large strand or whole street of cars is affected, rather than just one or two at a certain time.”

Since the start of the year, school officers have maintained a system of patrol and surveillance through cameras and physical watch. JROTC teacher Major Veleka Douglas is on duty three times a day around the school.

“Many teachers and staff have duty at different points so that we can keep eyes on what is going on at all times,” Douglas said. “Safety is a pre-emptive thing, and we all have to help and talk about what we need to do to be diligent.”

Despite these efforts, some students are still concerned about the safety of their cars at school, especially on the adjacent streets. Junior Leia Beinenson parks in the lower 10th Street lot and wants to see increased safety mechanisms. 

“We need better security at this school to make sure unwanted people cannot come into the lots,”Beinenson said. “Since the school is located in the peak part of the city, hundreds of people pass by the school daily, and without proper security for the cars and students at the school, it is unpredictable what will happen.”

Public safety nonprofit Midtown Blue has worked to patrol the area, instituting a program where there are 750 hours of combined patrols each week in Midtown, including surveillance from off-duty APD and public safety officers.

“Our public safety program is pretty bolstered, where we have a couple of APD officers that patrol on top of what the zone officers do,” Midtown Blue public safety and operations director, said. “We want to go above and beyond to put more people in our area and try to make it a little safer, so there’s at least two APS officers in the community 24/7.”

Due to these issues, APD launched the “Clear Car Campaign” in 2009 to encourage people to remove all valuables from their cars. The MA has continued these efforts in the community. Neville believes that this philosophy will be very impactful on the community.

“The number one thing we focus on is education,” Neville said. “Residents need to realize that you cannot leave anything in your car for people to see, like phone chargers that allude to other valuables, and especially do not leave a weapon or gun out because those weapons are a massive motive for car break-ins now.”

Junior Ava Johnson is dual enrolled in classes at Georgia State, which means she only spends the latter half of her day at Midtown. By the time she arrives, she has to park on the Midtown East streets, which has prompted her to engage in more preventive measures.

“I am very careful to ensure the safety of myself and my car, so I never leave anything in it and leave the door unlocked,” Johnson said. “That way, if anyone tries to break into my car, they will open the door and find nothing, rather than break my window and cost me a lot of money.”

Senior Jameson Knight also has a late start in her schedule, and she has also been careful about how she leaves her car during the school day.

“I got a club [device that locks the wheels on a parked car] on my car because I had heard of a lot of break-ins over the summer,” Knight said. “I drive a Kia Soul, which is particularly targeted, so I just did this to know no one could easily take my car.”

Carlos Cordoba, a resident of Garden Hills Midtown East, has been targeted twice in the past year and said that both times, the perpetrators have not been caught. 

“A few neighbors have cameras, but they are in and out in 10 minutes, so each time they have never gotten caught,” Cordoba said. “The neighbors are going to have to start being more vigilant because I don’t expect the police to be here in 10 minutes.”

These close incidents to Midtown are causing some students to reconsider their daily routines.

“Before this year, Vedado and those other roads were a great place to park in the morning,” Knight said. “Now knowing what has been happening on those streets might make me stop parking there at all.”

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About the Contributors
Sierra Pape
Sierra Pape, News Managing Editor
Sierra Pape is a junior and this is her third year on the Southerner staff. When she is not writing, you will find her running for the Midtown cross country team, working for Midtown Votes and political organizations outside of school, and singing and playing the guitar. She is excited to contribute to the paper for years to come.
Hannah Silver
Hannah Silver, Lifestyle Associate Managing Editor
Hannah Silver is a junior and this is her third year writing for the Southerner. When she's not spending her time writing, she is doing cheer, is beta club co-vice president, plays violin, is a company member at her dance studio, is a latin club officer, jewish student union leadership member, and enjoys hanging out with her friends.
Meredith Bell
Meredith Bell, A&E Section Editor
Meredith is a junior and this is her third year writing for the Southerner. Outside of school, she runs Midtown's film discussion club, acts in theater productions, and participates in Midtown Votes as well as the Plantlanta composting club.

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