Atlanta

High-ranking APD official addresses criticism over increasing crime in Buckhead

ATLANTA — A high-ranking member of the Atlanta Police Department is responding to criticism from residents who are unhappy over the city’s response to violent crime in Buckhead.

The complaints come just days after armed suspects shot and injured two good Samaritans as they attempted to stop thieves from stealing a car outside a Buckhead business.

“It seems like the crime is getting so much worse,” one Buckhead resident said, asking not to be identified.

She told Channel 2′s Michael Seiden that she’s called the Buckhead community her home for more than a decade, but she’s fed up with all of the crime.

“Just having to look over your shoulder constantly, going to the grocery store, getting gas,” the woman said. “I had one friend get held up at gunpoint.”

The woman made those comments on the same day that Atlanta Police Maj. Andrew Senzer voiced his support for the men and women of the Atlanta Police Department.

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“It’s been grueling. Our officers are fatigued, but our officers have been out there nonstop. The Atlanta Police Department has been the only part of our criminal justice system that has been operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the pandemic,” Senzer said.

The Zone 2 commander is in charge of leading the officers who patrol Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood, where residents and business owners say violent crime has gotten out of control in recent months.

Earlier this week, police responded to one Buckhead business after thieves shot and injured two good Samaritans during an attempted carjacking on Peachtree Road.

“You have a portion of the population that is armed, and they will resort to violence. They have no regard for human life. And that’s one of the challenges and dangers that that we face every time we put on the uniform and go out,” Senzer said.

Over the last year, Channel 2 Action News reported on at least a half dozen shootings at Lenox Square, including last month, when police say a fight between several men erupted into gunfire. Bullets went flying, shattering a glass window at a MARTA bus stop.

Then in October, a shopper started firing shots after getting robbed inside Neiman Marcus at the mall.

“What’s going on at Lenox, and what you guys doing to address the problem?” Seiden asked Senzer.

“We’ve since had meetings with Simon Properties. We made recommendations to the number of off-duty officers that we felt (were needed) in the mall to kind of mitigate some of the things we are seeing over there,” Senzer said.

Senzer said the uptick in crime can be blamed on several factors, including the pandemic, social unrest and staffing.

“For the past five to six months, you know, we now have an emboldened criminal population that has not been held accountable because the courts have been closed, the jail(s) have COVID-related restrictions,” Senzer said.

He told Seiden that one of the most frustrating issues police are facing is criticism from the public who believe officers aren’t doing enough proactive policing to combat the crime.

“Zone 2 has been busting their butts,” Senzer said. “Zone 2 right now is averaging probably 430 to 550 traffic stops per week. As I said, that’s heads and shoulders over everyone else.”

Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore said she and the city council are working toward addressing the issues.

Moore said despite Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ pay raise for officers, she believes there are still issues that need to be resolved if the city is going to improve morale.

“Most of the social unrest took place, and we started losing officers. They were upset over some of the firings and prosecutions of their comrades. And we are continuing to lose officers. And so I believe the administration, specifically the mayor, has to do even more and gain the confidence of our officers,” Moore said.

In the meantime, Buckhead residents and community leaders are coming together to form Buckhead Blue, a private police force that will hire off-duty APD officers to assist on-duty cops.

But that’s still not enough to keep some residents from leaving.

“Our whole life has been here for 11 years, so now we have to find all new everything, and it’s not that we don’t love Buckhead. It’s just not worth the crime and putting our lives at risk,” the Buckhead resident said.

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