By John Schaffner

If you think the number of burglaries has increased this year in your neighborhood, you are correct if you live in an area from northwest Buckhead east to Brookhaven and down the Lenox Road area.

In Beat 202 of Atlanta Police Zone 2, which includes the area around Chastain Park and Mt. Paran in northwest Buckhead, there have been 10 more burglaries this year — 26 burglaries last year, up to 36 this year to date — Zone 2 Commander Maj. Robert Browning told the Reporter on Sept. 2.

In Beat 201, which is the area south of Chastain and including the West Paces Ferry Road area near Randall Mill Road and Northside Drive, burglaries have increased from seven last year to 10 so far this year, according to Browning.

However, the combined increases in burglaries in those beats are not the highest for two beats in Zone 2.

Browning said Beat 204, which covers the area north of Peachtree Road and the Brookhaven area along Peachtree-Dunwoody Road, and Beat 205, which covers Lenox Square mall and the area south to Buford Highway, have seen a larger combined increase this year.

According to Browning, the combined increase year to date for beats 201 and 202 is 13 or 14 more burglaries than last year at this time. For beats 204 and 205, the increase is 16.

Browning said the total number of burglaries in Zone 2 last year was 609. To date this year, the number is 577, which accounts for a 5 percent reduction in burglaries throughout all of Zone 2. He said total crimes in the entire Zone 2 — everything from murder to auto theft — are down 6 percent.

“We have had pockets where we have had increases, and one of those is up there on Beat 202,” Browning said.

One of the better known cases, Browning explained, was that of Taurus Dixon, who was arrested by Zone 2 officers after one of the burglaries in the Chastain area. “He will be charged with at least six of those burglaries, and maybe more,” Browning said. “We are coordinating with Sandy Springs on that, because there were some on the Sandy Springs side that fit the same MO [mode of operation] that we had on our end.”

Since Dixon was caught, there have been only a couple of burglaries in the Chastain area, Browning explained.

Browning said Zone 2 also is working with Sandy Springs police to determine if two men caught on Aug. 31 might have been involved with other burglaries near Chastain Park.

The two men arrested Aug. 31 by Sandy Springs police are suspected of burglaries at two residences in southwest Sandy Springs in August — one in the 4700 block of Northside Drive and the other on Rebel Trail.

The suspected burglars reportedly broke into the Northside Drive home on Aug. 6 and then attempted to regain entry to the same house on Aug. 7.

The suspects in the Northside Drive incidents were arrested Aug. 31 following a home invasion and burglary at an unoccupied home on Rebel Trail that evening. The security alarm alerted Sandy Springs police and the arrest was made on I-285 as the suspects fled the Rebel Trail location.

Following the Northside Drive incidents, neighborhood crime alerts were sent with the make and tag number of the suspects’ black truck, as reported by Northside Drive homeowners.

Asked if there are more instances of people casing out houses and going up and knocking on doors than there have been in the past, Browning said, “We think what is going on — we are speculating at this point — they are going up, knocking on doors, seeing if anyone is home, and when they don’t get an answer, they go on in.

“I personally think they are casing the neighborhood, watching to see when people leave, because we have some instances where folks were only gone from the house four hours. They will come back and find they have been burglarized,” Browning explained. “I think it is someone in the neighborhood watching or posing as a work crew, something like that. We are stopping and approaching anybody who is working in those areas and making sure they are there on legitimate business,” he added.

“I think in our economy, people are getting a little bolder in what kind of crimes they are committing,” Browning said. “I think that the perpetrators that we have are a little higher-level than the ones who are on crack and trying to get a couple of bucks. They are more organized and smarter, and that is something that we are not used to seeing in this particular area. … We have seen it in the city of Atlanta before, but in our area we have not seen something that organized.”

They also are taking pretty high-priced stuff — paintings out of a home in the Tuxedo Road area, and Viking appliances out of homes that are empty and for sale.

Asked about complaints about slow response time on the part of his officers, Browning said, “It sort of depends on the type of call. If there is a Priority One call, where somebody drives home and there is somebody in the house, our response time is going to be very quick, probably under two minutes. If it is a burglary where the people are gone, it could be a little time,” he said.

“I found one the other day where it was a couple of hours,” he said. “It happened right at watch change, and because of other high-priority calls, it apparently took from 9:30 p.m. to a little after 11 p.m. he said. “It is not something we like, but unfortunately, because of our manpower, that is where we are at.”

Browning said Zone 2 is working on a pilot program right now to stagger the shift change times. “We traditionally have three watches. Traditionally we change the beat cars at 10:30 and 11 p.m., 6:30 and 7 a.m. and 2:30 and 3 p.m. Half of the cars go out at 2:30 and half go out at 3:00,” he said. “We have now split that up even further. We now have two cars that go out at 2:00, four go out at 2:30 and the other three go out at 3:00. It widens that span a little bit.

John Schaffner was founding editor of Reporter Newspapers.