As public safety continues to be a top concern in Atlanta, the Little 5 Points Alliance is taking a collaborative approach to creating a safe and welcoming space for business owners, residents, and visitors.
Long known for its counterculture roots, independent small businesses, and free-spiritedness, the district has also struggled with safety issues like drug use, homelessness, car break-ins, and vagrancy.
As a result, the Little 5 Points Alliance created a Public Safety Plan that focuses on a variety of approaches and partners to bring to the table. The Alliance was created in 2018 to serve as the collaborative voice for multiple groups (including the local business association, improvement district, and Candler Park and Inman Park neighborhood associations) dedicated to preserving the history and character of the district while also making improvements to safety, mobility, programming, and more.
“Little 5 Points wants to continue to be a welcoming space to all, and we certainly don’t believe we can arrest our way out of issues like homelessness or drug use,” said executive director Lauren Welsh. “We are working with several partners in these efforts including the Atlanta Police Foundation, Policing Alternatives & Diversion Initiative, Step-Up on Second, Intown Collaborative Ministries, Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition, Georgia Works, and others to use a more comprehensive approach toward community safety and support.”
Several public safety initiatives are already underway in Little 5 Points including a “Clean Car” campaign in cooperation with Atlanta Police Department’s Zone 6, regular clean-ups with Georgia Works, a lighting study on Seminole Avenue, and research around setting up a temporary public restroom. In addition, thanks to support from the Atlanta Police Foundation and Councilmember Amir Farokhi, the Alliance will be installing a new security camera along Davis Plaza and Seminole Avenue.
“We want people to feel welcome here, but we also want to be mindful about getting the police involved when it’s not necessary,” Welsh said. “We’re focusing on how to help people in need and not overtax or rely on the police. Part of the spirit of Little 5 is not blaming someone for a problem but figuring out to help them fix it.”
Last spring when restaurant and bar owners were reeling from the death of a colleague who passed away from a drug overdose, the Star Community Bar hosted a Narcan training event presented by Georgia Overdose Prevention to teach people how to administer the reversal drug.
APD Officer Angelina Singh, who patrols Little 5 on foot, also saved an overdosing man last summer by using Narcan. She said getting to know the business owners, homeless people, and residents is part of an “officer friendly” relationship she’s built in the district.
“High visibility is important in reducing crime,” Singh said. “I do daily drop-ins at the local businesses and make sure I’m seen patrolling. My presence in Little 5 Points allows other APD officers to respond to 911 calls and stay on patrol.”
Welsh said Little 5’s history of counterculture and free expression helped attract and keep small businesses – like Wax ‘n Facts, Crystal Blue, Criminal Records, and Junkman’s Daughter, to name a few – that have are mainstays of the district.
“We have a really diverse set of a businesses – a true mix – and we don’t want that to change,” Welsh said. “Part of our mission is to understand how those businesses and this district grew in the first place, so we can keep it for the future.”