The Sandy Springs Police Department participated in National Night Out this past summer as one of the ways it connects with the community in policing. (SSPD/Facebook)

Sandy Springs Police Chief Ken DeSimone told City Council that gun violence is a growing problem in the United States.

The city had four homicides involving firearms in 2022 through Nov. 30, he said, the same number it had in 2021. Nationwide an estimated 20,966 firearm homicides occurred, he said during the City Council’s Dec. 6 work session.

 “Sandy Springs is like an island in all of this craziness that’s going on,” he said.

The 30 aggravated assaults involving firearms in 2020, 66 in 2021 and 39 so far this year were in large part attributed to road rage incidents where somebody points a gun at another person, DeSimone said.

The 10 home invasions might be in part because of coming out of the pandemic, the chief said. The home invasions involved a drug group in which arrests have been made, including the final suspect locked up in South Atlanta last week.

Guns seized by officers must be kept by the department or be sold, but DeSimone said they don’t sell any guns. Only after six months can a firearm be transferred to GBI, used for training purposes or destroyed, he said.

The Police Department’s Citizens Police Academy is held twice a year, and the monthly gun safety class are very popular, he said. They’d like to offer more gun safety classes, but the private range where it is offered has limited availability.

DeSimone said he’d like to open up a gun range at the new police headquarters being renovated on Morgan Falls Road. Interest has come from corporate citizens in Sandy Springs because the Police Department trains their security teams. He believes some Fortune 500 companies might help pay – or completely fund – a gun range. That would increase the capacity for gun safety classes and other training, he said.

A lot of the issues with guns come from people not knowing what to do. They keep their guns in their vehicles, and vehicle break-ins put guns out on the streets because they are not safely locked up, DeSimone said.

“And that’s one thing that gun safety class does is say, ‘Hey, if you’re going to be a responsible firearm owner, you’ve got to be responsible not only at home but in your vehicle as well,’” he said.

Free gun locks are provided to gun safety students, and they are informed about current gun laws in Georgia. The gun safety classes had 70 participants in 2021 in 7 classes, and 50 in 2022 in 6 classes.

The Citizens Police Academy has had 32 participants this year and 34 in 2021, he said. These individuals often move on to Citizens on Patrol. The city has 50 of the COPs volunteers who use three vehicles to aid such as helping with the Sparkle Sandy Springs event.

Police partner with businesses, schools

In corporate partnerships, the Police Department conducts security surveys, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) assessments and holds Citizen Response to Active Shooter (CRASE) training.

The chaplain program connects them with places of worship and provides security.

Neighborhood Watch programs and the Community Police Officer program bring the police into the community. In 10 multifamily communities, officers have been provided rent discounts that bring a police presence into each community, with the officer parking a patrol car on site while off duty and at home.

They also partner with private and public schools, with off-duty officers serving the same role in private schools as public-school resource officers.

The Police Department is part of North Metro SWAT and participates in the DEA’s Drug Take Back Day. Task force officers and detectives work full-time with the FBI, DEA, AFT, HIS and part-time with the Secret Service on fraud cases, he said.

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.