A spike in serious crimes first seen in 2008 hasn’t gone away in Peachtree City, but the rate of increase is much lower in 2009, according to figures from the Peachtree City Police Department.
In 2008 police recorded 637 “Part I” crimes, up from 422 in 2007. That’s a surge of 51 percent, year to year. And in 2009, the number inched a little higher with 665 such crimes reported by police. That’s a 4 percent increase from the previous year. The two-year spike is 58 percent.
The “Part I” crimes include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.
Police Chief H.C. “Skip” Clark told the City Council last week that much of the increase was due to more entering auto cases as thieves target electronics left in unlocked cars.
Many residents tend to view Peachtree City as very safe and don’t take proper precautions such as locking their cars and not leaving valuables in the car, Clark noted.
“We’ve had some individuals say, ‘When we come here it’s easy pickings because they don’t lock their cars and they leave stuff around,’” Clark said.
Clark also chalked up part of the crime increase to the economy and “growth around us.”
Clark said residents should strive to be more aware when shopping as the city is seeing an increase in those types of crime as well.
Peachtree City has between eight and nine patrol officers on each shift and the average response time to a call for service is 7.33 minutes. Part of the reason for the higher number is traffic on the roads, Clark said, and the other part has to do with the way the 911 dispatch center calculates the times, he added.
The department is also taking steps to combat graffiti in the community in part by purchasing special graffiti sensors, Clark said. While he chose not to elaborate about the new technology, he said the sensors are in several places around the city.
Police are also working on providing an option for residents to report graffiti online, Clark said. The goal, he said, is to get it painted over quickly and the department is looking at using a group of volunteers to photograph the graffiti and get it painted over.
“Sometimes we don’t see it quickly enough,” Clark said, adding that the public’s help is necessary.
The department is also making the most of collaborative efforts with other law enforcement agencies, Clark said. Peachtree City has joined forces with the Fayette County Tactical Narcotics Team, sending an officer to serve with that unit. The city has seen more narcotics cases being made here than in previous years, Clark noted.
Peachtree City also has combined its Special Response (SWAT) Teams with the City of Fayetteville, which helps reduce the duplication of resources, materials and weapons. The SRT is called out typically for warrants being served on persons who have weapons in a home with a tendency to become violent or on occasions where a distraught person threatens or hurts someone or might be barricaded in a home, Clark said.
The department is training its second K-9 officer as the K-9 program has received $24,000 in community donations, Clark said. The chief noted that the department is using Tahoe SUVs for the K-9 program instead of a regular patrol car in hopes of extending the dogs’ useful lives. It costs roughly $2,000 more than a regular patrol vehicle but the department thinks that money “is well spent for the life of the dog and that program,” Clark said.
The department has also received $27,500 in donations, much from Kia of Union City, to equip all officers with tasers. The tasers are a benefit because it gives officers an option to subdue a suspect with non-deadly force, Clark said.
The department has added three all-volunteer reserve officers and hopes to have two more join as early as this year, Clark said. The reserve officers pay their own way through police academy and once they graduate they must serve a minimum 30 hours a month.
The reserve officers are full-fledged police officers with full arrest powers and they can handle a variety of duties from patrol to investigations, to issuing alcohol permits for example, Clark said.
The department has also had successes in building community relationships with a police academy for interested adults and a junior police academy for teens along with the Community Emergency Response Team training for adults and teens, Clark noted.
Councilwoman Kim Learnard said she is certain the department is improving its community relationship with teenagers.
The department is also preparing to deploy five fingerprinting devices that will provide field officers with a way to determine if a suspect has a criminal record, Clark said. That program is being funded through a grant, he added.
The department is also continuing to have a presence on the cart path system, with 1,147 hours of patrol last year compared to 1,083 hours in 2008.