Atlanta Police Zone 2 commander Maj. Van Hobbs made his introductions to the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods on Thursday, May 10, and answered questions with straight talk and homespun humor.
Since taking over for Maj. Robert Browning, who in April was promoted to commander of special operations, he’s been bombarded with phone calls and emails. His BCN appearance came after another long day. He said he’d been working since the early morning and left the meeting soon after his presentation.
But he left the Buckhead neighborhoods with a promise.
“The one thing you’ll find out about me, if I tell you I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it,” he said.
The police department promoted Hobbs to sergeant after the 1996 Olympics and assigned him to the airport, which he said was once known as a dead-end for officers who weren’t working out anywhere else. Hobbs sharpened his skills, carving out a niche for himself in internal investigations, which brought him to the attention of the Internal Affairs division. As he moved up the ranks, he said he increased recruiting standards and oversaw the efficient disposal of old evidence.
“Officers would turn in a beer can from a shop lifting case 10 years ago,” he said.
Hobbs’ go-getting ways made an impression on his bosses, but he’s an unknown commodity to Buckhead residents. They’re used to Browning, who received accolades for Buckhead’s low crime rate. Zone 2 crime dropped by 13 percent in 2011. Hobbs is also taking over a larger territory. The city expanded Zone 2 by 3 square miles in 2011, adding the Cheshire Bridge Road/Morningside corridor.
One BCN member, Kathy Collura, had a substantive “to do” list for the new zone commander.
Collura, president of the Peachtree Heights East Neighborhood Association, wanted him to see if there are any plans to stop Sunday church parking on a section of Peacthree Road road known by locals as “Jesus Junction.”
Hobbs said it is his understanding parking isn’t enforced on Sundays, but said he’d look into it. Collura also wanted to know why she couldn’t reach someone in the Community Services Division of APD. Hobbs said people who have problems, even problems that aren’t emergencies like noise complaints, should dial 911.
He said while calling 911 for every little thing sounds like overkill, the volume of 911 calls is a big part of determining staffing levels in a zone. He said police officers will soon have decibel readers to allow them to more accurately write noise citations, and he said he wants to target ticketing on areas where speeding is rampant to train drivers to slow down.
Zone 2 wrote 893 traffic citations the week of April 30. He recalled pulling over a man who complained that police officers were wasting their time by writing a large number of tickets.
Hobbs set him straight.
“I arrest more felons on traffic stops than I do just patrolling,” he said.
Collura said she wasn’t pleased with his answer about why the Community Services Division won’t return phone calls. She was satisfied, but guarded, by how he handled her other questions.
“The proof is in the pudding,” she said of her first impression. “We’ll see.”
Hobbs assured the BCN that they will like what they see.
“I told my wife before we got married, ‘Before you say yes, you’ve got to understand I’m an Atlanta police officer,’” Hobbs said. “It’s not what I do. It’s who I am.”