Carjacking puts spotlight on Edgewood Retail safety
This story has been updated.
A violent carjacking on July 5 touched off a nervous conversation about what can be done to improve safety at the Edgewood Retail District, but police say that crime is actually down at the shopping center.
That hasn’t stopped calls for safety improvements and additional police presence.
Details of the carjacking sound like a nightmare. A woman was in the Target parking garage at noon when a man punched her in the head, knocking her to the ground. The man took the woman’s purse and the keys to her Mercedes. She said the man got in her car, put the vehicle in reverse and she had to roll away to avoid being run over.
The attack followed a June 25 a robbery at the shopping center that was caught on video.
Maj. Timothy Peek, the commander of Atlanta’s Zone 6 precinct, said crime is down 54 percent at the retail center, following a broader trend of declining crime rates in in the zone.
“There are less crimes taking place there. However we have had within the last few weeks a particular group of people who have committed a few robberies by force or intimidation and one armed robbery at the location,” Peek said.
City Councilwoman Natalyn Archibong, who represents Edgewood, said she intended to reach out to the property manager to find out what could be done to improve safety at the center. She said one suggestion she’s heard is that lighting at the center can be improved, but said she wants to hear recommendations from other public safety professionals.
“The safety of everyone … is of paramount importance and if we know there are potential problems and things we can do to increase safety, it’s incumbent upon the retailers and owners to demand that that happen and get that improved as soon as possible,” Archibong said.
Peek said he is in touch with Krissy Venneman, the property manager.
Attempts to reach Venneman have so far been unsuccessful.
Venneman sent Decaturish a statement on the morning of July 15. She said she couldn’t discuss the specific steps management is taking to improve safety at the retail center.
“First and foremost, we would like to convey that our hearts sincerely go out to the victims of these criminal acts,” she wrote “As members of this community, we consider the safety of our patrons and tenants of paramount importance. We have always had a fully staffed property management office located on-site as well as vigilant security staff on site 24/7. We will continue to consult and fully cooperate with the Atlanta Police Department and thank the police department for their continued efforts in this matter.”
When asked about Archibong’s comment about illumination around the center, Peek said “more lighting is always better.”
When asked about the lack of video in the July 5 carjacking, Peek said that’s another thing police have raised with the retail center management.
“We’re working with them … to come up with some good recommendations to enhance the video surveillance on their property,” Peek said.
During the July 10 Kirkwood Neighbors Organization meeting, Sgt. T.R. Shedeke said representatives of the retail district have said they’d like more security.
“They’re trying to assign one security officer to each major parking lot over there,” she said. “…I went to the meeting yesterday with Maj. Peek and we are also looking at putting more officers inside that Edgewood shopping plaza.”
She said Atlanta Police will also try to deter crime using an “unauthorized persons” law. The sergeant told KNO there’s some controversy surrounding the law because it’s up to the officer to determine whether or not someone looks suspicious.
“We’ve stayed away from it because it was so controversial, but now we were told to go ahead and start using the unauthorized persons on the parking lot,” she said. “If you don’t have a car in the lot and you’re there and you’re kind of remaining there, we are now going to start utilizing that law … so hopefully that will help to combat some of that bad traffic that’s walking through the Edgewood Retail District.”
When asked for a clarification about Shedeke’s comments, Atlanta Police Officer John Chafee said Shedeke was referring to an ordinance against “unauthorized interference or attempted interference with parked vehicles.”
He said the ordinance has been used in the past to deter people from lurking in parking lots. One of the provisions of the law says a person can be cited with a violation if they are “acting in a manner not usual for law-abiding individuals under circumstances that warrant a justifiable and reasonable alarm or immediate concern for the safety of persons or property in the vicinity.”
Here is the full text of the ordinance, provided by Atlanta Police:
Sec. 106-57. Unauthorized interference or attempted interference with parked vehicles.
It shall be unlawful for any person to loiter or prowl on any property which is used to park vehicles, including parking lots for vehicles as set out in the City of Atlanta Code of Ordinances, chapter 30, article XVII, division 3, section 30-1196, et seq., and public right-of-way, if said person has been observed:
Attempting entry into vehicles, or
Tampering with the vehicle of another, which shall mean any unauthorized interference with a vehicle or any part or accessory thereof or any contents therein, or
Otherwise acting in a manner not usual for law-abiding individuals under circumstances that warrant a justifiable and reasonable alarm or immediate concern for the safety of persons or property in the vicinity.
Among the circumstances which may be considered in determining whether alarm is warranted is the fact that the person opens or attempts to open the doors, trunk, windows or hood of the vehicle; takes flight upon the appearance of a law enforcement officer; manifestly endeavors to conceal himself or any object that may be utilized for entry into an automobile or is otherwise prohibited by law; removes or attempts to remove anything of value from the vehicle; or otherwise causes damage to the vehicle.
A law enforcement officer shall, prior to any arrest for an offense under this code section, afford theperson an opportunity to dispel any alarm or immediate concern which would otherwise be warranted by requesting the person to identify himself and explain his presence and conduct. Noperson shall be convicted of an offense under this code section:
Unless the law enforcement officer complies with the foregoing procedure; and
Unless the trier of fact determines beyond a reasonable doubt under all circumstances of the case that the explanation was not true or would not, if believed by the officer at the time, have dispelled the officer’s alarm or immediate concern.
Upon conviction of violation of this section, a person shall be sentenced to imprisonment or public work for six months, with a minimum of 60 days to serve in the city jail or working on the public streets or on the public works of the city, the remainder of the time to be probated.