By John Schaffner
The Fulton County Commission voted unanimously April 21 to fund a community prosecutor for Buckhead’s Atlanta Police Zone 2, the only Atlanta police zone that had not had a community prosecutor assigned to it.
The 7-0 vote came after “a spirited debate,” according to Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods President Jim King and after the BCN had marshalled a delegation of Buckhead neighborhood representatives to appear before the commission during the earlier public comment period.
Included in the delegation was Kim Kahwach, chair of the BCN’s Public Safety Committee who reported the results of the commission vote.
Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts had appeared at the April 15 meeting of the BCN and urged he group to show support for the Zone 2 community prosecutor, which Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard had asked the commission to fund for the remainder of this year and henceforth.
Pitts had warned the BCN members that approval of the position would require four votes on the commission. He had warned that was no certainty.
Zone 2 was the only Atlanta police zone that did not have a community prosecutor from the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office assigned to work with police and community groups on criminal cases.
The reason Zone 2 has been last on the list is because when the program was started in 1999, the first community prosecutor was assigned to the police zone that had the worst crime problems. That was Zone 6 in southwest Atlanta. Zone 2 has had the lowest incidence of crime of any police zone in the city.
However, following a forceful plea from the BCN, Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard had strongly supported adding a community prosecutor for Zone 2, even though money to pay for the position was not in the county’s budget.
Pitts said the price tag for instituting the position in Zone 2 for the remainder of this year is estimated at $80,000 to $82,000. He said the cost for a full year would be about $120,000 to $130,000.
Pitts told members of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods on April 15 that there is a process known as “soundings” that deals with adding items to the budget. At the last commission meeting, the Zone 2 community prosecutor was listed, with a price tag of $80,000. There was no vote taken at that time.
Pitts pointed out that in addition to the $80,000 for salary and benefits, the prosecutor needs an office in Zone 2 from which to work. He said the offices have been donated in the other zones around the city.
LaDawn Blackett Jones, the Fulton DA’s community prosecutor in Zone 4, explained that the prosecutor will work in the zone and may live in the area. She said a community prosecutor interacts on a regular basis with the public at community meetings and keeps residents updated on trial dates and cases.