One woman described frequent gunfire in her neighborhood, gang members that walk the streets and children who are afraid to play at a neighborhood basketball court.
Another elderly woman said gang members threaten her, saying, “%&*#, we know you are the one calling the police.”
A third described living on a block with five drug houses.
All of the women live in Atlanta’s Zone 1 police district, which stretches from downtown to I-285 on the west side and I-20 on the south side of the city.
They were just a few of dozens of community members from west and southwest Atlanta came to Salem Bible Church on Wednesday night for a community meeting with Atlanta officials. While those attending live in police zones 1 and 4, most of the ones who lined up for their turn at the mic came from Zone 1. One after another, they described a litany of concerns, often with poignant details, about what it was like to live in their communities and fear for their own and their children’s safety.
In addition to leaders from the Atlanta Police Department, officials from the Department of Corrections, the District Attorney’s office and Code Enforcement attended the meeting. About a dozen police officers were also present.
The Westside area is frequently in the news for its rapid development and rising rental prices. The Westside Trail, expected to bring even more development, is on track to be completed next year. But the concerns voiced during the hour of public comment at the meeting showed an area that’s far removed, at least psychologically, from that development.
Zone 1 Commander Major Todd Coyt responded to each of the comments from his zone, frequently asking citizens to provide him with specific addresses and details so his officers could follow up on the problem.
“Each of you are here because you care,” Coyt said, thanking the participants and urging them to get other community members involved. “Next time bring one more person with you when you come.”
In addition fears about gangs and drug dealers, people said they also have problems with abandoned houses in their neighborhoods, loitering in front of businesses, and businesses who ignore city code guidelines.
Deputy Chief Rodney, who heads up the Community Services Division, assured citizens his division is working to become more proactive in addressing code concerns.
After about an hour of hearing public comments, staff divided the people into three groups to come up with solutions to the problems.
Elizabeth Espy, director of public affairs for the APD, said they have held community meetings for each of the zones in the last few months. She said they want to hear from citizens about issues, but also work towards solutions for those problems.