Atlanta Police Foundation teams up with community to rehab Head Start building

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Police Foundation and its partners are working on a major undertaking to rehab an old Head Start building to help build a better relationship between officers and the community.

Before Channel 2 Action News could even take a step inside the building, officers had to do a secure sweep to make sure no one was hiding inside. The building is full of glass and debris, but Aaron Nicholson, the Youth Program Manager for At Promise with the Atlanta Police Foundation, is working on plans to totally transform the building.

The dark rooms will soon be filled with opportunities for youth between the ages of 13 and 24 years-old.

The future youth center sits at the corner of Cameron Mitchell Alexander Boulevard and Griffin Street in Northwest Atlanta. It is an area in desperate need of help.

"I believe once kids get in here, I want them to feel safe," said Nicholson.

The building is four minutes from the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Nicholson called this "ground zero" of the Westside development that is planned with the help of partners like the Arthur M. Blank Foundation.

Their donations will help rehab the old offices, build a computer lab and help recruit members of the community.

Phase one is just underway. Construction will begin in about sixty days. Crews will need to replace punched


out ceiling tiles and clean up the broken glass and debris. The work is expected to take about ten months.

Several blocks south of the youth center site, we also met Ashley Wilson, the program manager for the Atlanta Police Foundation's Secure Neighborhoods Initiative. "In a perfect world, you would want your police officers to live within the city," said Wilson.

The Atlanta Police Foundation teamed up with Pulte homes, and this fall, a graded dirt lot will have five houses for Atlanta police officers to call home.

"We have a lot of officers that used to work in zone one, and you know they know the community and they want to come back here," said Wilson.

The homes will be 19-hundred square feet, with three bedrooms, two baths and a $500 monthly stipend. The asking price is $135,000, and the officer will get a take-home vehicle to park out front. They plan to have 25 homes soon.

About twenty miles away, Nancy Cal and Mayor Gonzalez sells Mexican corn at the Norcross Farmers Market after attending a food safety class organized by the Norcross Police Department.

It's part of their effort to reach out to the growing Hispanic community, along with their Hispanic Citizens Police Academy, which is taught in Spanish. Students learn how the police department works and how to interact with officers.

"They'll call me and say, 'Hey I just got a ticket and I just want you to know I was able to talk to the officer. I knew what to do,'" said Sgt. Arelis Rivera, with Norcross Police.

The goal is to make them feel part of the community and comfortable calling the police.

"And we all want the exact same thing. We want to raise our kids in a safe environment, and feel safe," said Sgt. Rivera.

Norcross Police say the Hispanic community is reporting more crime now, because they are no longer afraid to call the police.