Guest Column
Kevin G. Hughley

Brookhaven Chamblee Home Owners and Neighborhood Business Alliance, a five-year-old non-profit organization, has been addressing crime in the Brookhaven/Chamblee community from the start.

What we have begun to see is quality-of-life crimes increasing in the business corridor, which includes Peachtree Road, Buford Highway, Johnson Ferry Road and Ashford-Dunwoody Road.

These are the types of crimes where homeless people concentrate in a particular area to solicit food and money to provide for their daily living and have become more aggressive in the last year.

They have begun to assault patrons and employees, and businesses are seeing high theft rates. The businesses have to direct employees to deal with the homeless problem, which also is becoming a nuisance for shoppers when they are solicited as they enter a business. Sometimes, people are sleeping on the sidewalks of the businesses and creating an unpleasant environment in which patrons will not shop.

DeKalb Police have been contacted, but according to them their response is based on the severity of the crime and these are not considered life-threatening crimes even though patrons are being assaulted.

Recently, we have witnessed the increase of severity of crime, from business break-ins to bank robberies, and a senior citizen robbery in daylight hours. The community has become a haven for the criminal element because of the response time of DeKalb police. Recently, we have witnessed it has taken DeKalb police 50 minutes to respond to certain types of crime.

This can no longer be acceptable in the Brookhaven community. There must be a plan to deal with these crimes if we will continue to have the quality of life we are accustomed to having in the Brookhaven community.

DeKalb County must come up with a plan to address the homeless in DeKalb County as well as the increase of the level of crime occurring in Brookhaven.

The community through Brookhaven Chamblee Home Owners and Neighborhood Business Alliance has taken the first step by forming a business/homeowner crime watch program, where we will inform our businesses and home owners through an email system on the types of crimes occurring.

This program will focus on three components: education, enforcement and prosecution. The education part will include informing the community on what’s happening and how neighbors can be the eyes and ears for other neighbors, then communicating that information through the email system. It will also include emailing DeKalb police on crimes happening in the community. As far as enforcement is concerned, DeKalb Police must enforce the current laws on the books such as criminal trespass, unlawful solicitation and vagrancy. On prosecution, there must be communication with our Solicitor General, DeKalb District attorney and judges on the problems we are having, so when they come before the judicial system, the judges are aware of the problem. We may want to look at no-solicitation zones if it can pass the legality of the court.

The crime-watch system requires the businesses, home owners, and community organizations to report any crimes they see to as we use the email network to get the word out.

The program also requires our police to respond to the crime in a reasonable amount of time of 10 minutes or less so the criminal can be apprehended. It also requires the police to schedule more presentations to community groups about how to fight crime. We have named this program, “Crime is Everybody’s Business. Join the Fight to Protect Our Neighborhood.”

Kevin G. Hughley is president of the Brookhaven Chamblee Home Owners and Neighborhood Business Alliance.