By John Schaffner

Atlanta Police Zone 2 Commander Major James Sellers told a group of about 100 business leaders that the two major crime problems in Buckhead and throughout Atlanta now are auto break-ins and thefts of copper. He praised the Buckhead Alliance’s camera program for helping to reduce crime statistics.

Addressing the quarterly breakfast meeting of the Buckhead Alliance April 16, he said the good news is that robberies are down 20 percent and car thefts are down 16 percent. But car break-ins are down slightly from the past couple of months, but are still a major crime source.

Sellers said the criminals know that Buckhead is an area where they will be able to find laptop computers and GPS systems in cars, which are primary targets for thefts. Emphasizing the problem of thefts from autos, Sellers said the downtown Atlanta precinct had 108 cars broken into for two weeks in a row.

The Zone 2 commander urged the business leaders to meet with the security people at their business locations and have them keep an eye out for drivers leaving valuable items in their cars when they park. Security guards in parking lots and parking decks can help reduce this type of crime by urging those people to take their valuable items with them or lock them away out of sight.

“When you came into this building (Atlanta Financial Center) today, you were greeted by a woman at the door,” Sellers said. He said she is part of the building security force “and she sees the face of every person who comes in the building.” He indicated that person can be a valuable information resource for his department.

Sellers said the other major crime trend is the theft of copper of all types from multiple sources. He said one of the major targets are the coils in air-conditioning units. He cited the case of a thief who got on the roof of an office building and managed to steal the copper from a number of air-conditioning units, then called his accomplice and made off with the copper.

He said copper is a popular theft item in the Buckhead area, and the criminals will steal everything from small quantities to large rolls of copper tubing or wire.

Sellers praised the Alliance for its program of putting cameras at major shopping areas, intersections and entrances and exits to Buckhead. He pointed out it was a still photograph extracted from one of those cameras that helped solve the cases of the seven ring robberies that took place last year.

“As police officers, we are very grateful to have the cameras provided by the Alliance,” Sellers said. “I am so excited that the cameras are now being placed over the entire Buckhead area. I personally like to watch Northside Parkway and West Paces Ferry. Because it is so close to the highway (I-75), we have had several instances there.”

In addition to the ring robberies, he said several bank robberies have occurred in that area.

“We never had the resources to have cameras at that intersection,” he explained. “I am convinced these cameras are going to do the same thing to fight crime that the cameras did in the Village.” Sellers said crime dropped 34 percent in the Village area after the cameras were installed. At the same time, crime in Zone 2 went down 12 percent.

He also predicted that as the cameras are located in other areas of Buckhead, crime will also decrease in those areas.

Following Sellers, Alliance Executive Director Scotty Greene said the Buckhead camera program costs $85,000 a year. He said 17 new cameras have been installed and they should be operational in two weeks. Three of the cameras are in Chastain Park.

“We will have 17 cameras in a ring fashion at all the major intersections and entrances and exits for Buckhead,” Greene reported. He said those signals would be broadcast 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and monitored by police officers in the Buckhead precincts, which the Alliance also finances. That cost is $50,000 a year. “That is why membership in the Buckhead Alliance is important, because about $135,000 a year goes to that security baseline,” Greene explained.

Another aspect of the breakfast program was an opportunity for several development projects in Buckhead to update attendants on their status using displays in an adjacent room. Those represented included the St. Regis Hotel & Residences, which is to open in about a year; The Mansion on Peachtree, which is to open in three weeks; Streets of Buckhead, Terminus 200 & 10 Terminus Place, 3344 Peachtree/Sovereign and Two Alliance Center.