By Katie Fallon

While district 4 councilwoman Ashley Jenkins’ Sept. 17 town hall meeting may have been sparsely attended, the prevailing theme of the evening was clear.

Public safety.

The Sandy Springs Police Department’s Lt. Steve Rose continued to try and convince residents that by simply eliminating the opportunity, crime categories like thefts from cars could be dramatically decreased. Overall, though, crime in the city was reported to be down by 25 percent.

Rose said the number of thefts from cars last month did contribute to August’s monthly increase in crime rates. That one category, he said, has a snowball effect on the city’s crime rate.

“August was not a kind month for us,” Rose said. “We had a total of 334 Part 1 crimes. What spiked those numbers are the larcenies and thefts and what spiked those numbers were the thefts that are coming out of cars.”

In fact, Rose said the excess of thefts from cars is not only affecting Sandy Springs. Because it borders the Dunwoody community across the county line, the city is also sharing the burden with DeKalb. The most recent “hot spot” for this type of crime has been Peachtree Dunwoody Road and Hammond Drive.

Similarly, Rose said the hot item being taken from cars is GPS systems more so than other high ticket items like laptops. So far, the police department’s tactics have succeeded, but only in moving the activity from hot spot to hot spot.

“We’re constantly trying to get back to the thefts from cars,” Rose said. “We’ve used several different strategies. We’ve done one where we just saturated the area with patrols.”

During those patrol saturations, the lieutenant said marked cars will patrol opposite sides of a designated area, with sting vehicles monitoring the areas in between.

“We moved them, but we didn’t catch them,” Rose said. “We make a lot of arrests on thefts from cars. We continue to make them, but we continue to have people get their stuff broken into.”

To help combat the problem in high rate areas like apartment complexes, Rose said he is starting an effort to create “apartment watches,” which he said are scaled down versions of neighborhood watches.

While incidents may be high in apartment complex parking lots, which residents can often blame on poor lighting or other property management issues, Rose said the opportunity is still there when people leave valuable items in plain site.

Lt. David Roskind, the patrol commander for Jenkins’ district, said false alarms also continue to be a major problem for the city. In August alone, the department responded to 914 false residential and commercial alarms. Only five of the alarm calls received were real.