2. There will also be another meeting with Mayor Reed, Chief Turner, and other city officials next Tuesday evening, and we want to encourage everybody to attend this meeting as well. We find it very important to keep the momentum going on the neighborhood and city’s response to recent crime trends.
3. Media coverage – Here are a couple media reports about Wednesday night’s meeting:
4. We leave you with the official police report narrative (with redactions) of last weekend’s broad daylight robbery of the mother with her child:
#152761598 | 700s Charles Allen Drive | 10/03/2015 | Robbery (attempted carjacking) – On October 3 2015 at 3:10pm police were dispatched to 720 Charles Allen Drive [roughly Chas Allen & 4th] on a robbery call. When they arrived at the location they spoke to Ms. VICTIM and she advised that she was returning home from shopping with her daughter and noticed 3 black males walking east on 4th street. She at first started wondering who they were but continue to her home. Mrs. VICTIM backed her vehicle into her driveway and got out to get the groceries out of her trunk. As she was getting ready to open her trunk a black male with a small afro, wearing a black pullover hoodie with a teal colored sweat pants came around with a small old black revolver pointing it at her advised her to get on the ground. When she got on the ground, her husband came outside and saw what was going on. and started making noise and screaming at the suspect, who then ﬂed the scene. The victim’s purse was located in front of a neighbor’s door in the direction suspects ﬂed the scene. The second black male wore a gray hoodie and the third black male had on khaki pants. [Investigators came to the scene, got a statement from the victim] After the suspects fled the scene they went over to 727 Juniper Street NE [Lutheran Tower] and allegedly carjacked someone else.
1. Meeting with our community prosecutor
Earlier this week we met with Keith Lamar, our current Zone 5 Prosecutor. We presented six cases of interest to us:
The six cases are listed below. We were very pleased with the attention given in the cases, and received some recommendations on how to prioritize these cases. These cases will be closely monitored by us and by our community prosecutors. Our feeling is that Midtown has a lot of support and interest from the Fulton County DA’s office via our community prosecutor. Currently, Keith Lamar is acting as community prosecutor for both zones 5 and 6. A new community prosecutor is coming on board very soon to take over Zone 5 (our zone), and we will be meeting with her at some point. During the transition period Mr. Lamar will work closely with us in dealing with the six cases we have presented to him. In other words, we are now moving full force ahead with the court watch program.
2. The court program – what it is:
The website of the Fulton County District Attorney’s office sums it up best: One of the most successful and recognizable Fulton County Community Prosecution initiatives is the Citizens’ CourtWatch program. Often dubbed the ‘eyes and ears’ of the community in court, CourtWatch was created by District Attorney Howard as a vehicle to engage average citizens in the criminal justice system. As Community Prosecutors track cases involving repeat offenders and those of general interest to the community, CourtWatchers are encouraged to attend court proceedings and, when deemed appropriate by the Court, offer perspective regarding the impact a defendant’s criminal activity has on a community. We have revised our general information page on the court watch program at http://www.midtownponce.org/misc/court-watch
3. What we now need from neighborhood folks:
If you are at least sometimes available in the mornings, and can go with us to a court hearing, then we would like to add you to a special email distribution list for court watch purposes. When a case arises, we will then send out a detailed case briefing, work out carpooling arrangements, and other logistical details. While a pool of about 20-30 potential participants would be optimal, we normally only need a handful of volunteers to actually go to a hearing. One person knowledgeable about the case in question and its defendant(s) will be designated a spokesperson for the group (normally an MPSA board member). Sometimes multiple neighborhood groups are involved with a court watch case, as we often share many of the same criminals with other nearby places.
Hearings very often come up on very short notice, and in many cases it may even come in the late afternoon for a hearing the very next morning. We will monitor dates through the Superior Court website, but last minute changes do happen. We then call upon the court watch volunteer list for a handful of attendees for the hearing, and quickly work out carpooling arrangements, provide a detailed briefing on the case, etc. This is very much a hit-or-miss deal – sometimes we can make it, sometimes not. The larger our pool of volunteers, the more likely we will “hit.” Historically, we typically attended one or two hearings per month and many did not result in a conviction on that day. Sometimes defendants back off of a guilty plea when they learn that court watch attendees are in the gallery, but even when that happens we know we are getting somewhere with a clear message that folks will take a strong stance against those bringing criminal activity to our neighborhood. But when they do take a plea, or a guilty verdict is handed down, then we want to be ready to spring into action.
4. The cases we submitted (each linked to its own case briefing sheet):
In response to questions asked on neighborhood social media sites, we are providing an overview of how MPSA works. We concentrate most of our patrol hours on daytime hours on weekdays, when residential burglaries most commonly occur in nearly any residential community. The patrol currently operates from 10/11am to 2/3pm on most weekdays. In any community – not just Midtown – these hours are the most vulnerable in terms of residential burglaries.
Sgt. Cooper, our patrol coordinator, also maintains rapport with property owners, APD operations, and other agencies such as Code Enforcement to keep them aware of ongoing issues that affect our neighborhood all hours of the day, and to help us mobilize resources beyond the patrol to address ongoing issues like problem properties. This “neighborhood consultant” aspect of Sgt. Cooper’s role with MPSA operation dovetails well with burglary prevention.
In the early years we focused our patrol hours on nighttime hours, when conditions were most problematic at that time. Because conditions at night improved considerably, we began shifting patrol hours to more random times so as not to neglect other issues affecting the neighborhood. Over the years we learned this approach was ineffective, at least in the longer run. So about six years ago we began to focus our patrol on daytime hours, when burglaries most commonly occur. What’s worse than having criminals roaming our streets in front of our homes is having them inside of our homes. This strategy has resulted in a 80% decrease in the number of residential burglaries.
Compared to an average of six (occasionally more) residential burglaries a month seven years earlier, we now see months go by without what we call a typical residential burglary (occurring mid-day on weekdays when most folks are at work). Most of the burglaries we are seeing now either occur in large multi-unit buildings with secured entry, or have unusual circumstances (like a drunk person crashing into someone’s home during overnight hours, or an offender in some way targeting someone they know). A comparison of burglary incidents in 2015 vs. 2008 is at the end of this article.
We continue to operate a few night and evening shifts. This patrol coverage helps to keep us abreast of what’s going on in the area, but this level of patrolling is not adequate to systematically eliminate chronic patterns. Nighttime issues include:
Robberies present us with a very disturbing phenomenon, and with it a need to significantly increase our night patrols. When we started MPSA in 2003 most of our robberies were perpetrated by offenders on foot. In the last few years it has become a very pronounced pattern for robbers to come and go in a car. They either appear in a car and suddenly jump out to rob the victim, or they park, scout for a victim, and quickly leave in a car once they make a hit. Because the perpetrators are in and out of the neighborhood very quickly, the probability that any police officer will be in the right spot at the right time is low. Deploying patrols five times a week during the most common times street robberies occur would increase this probability and help us considerably in reducing robberies. In addition, patrol hours at night would help us address the other aforementioned nighttime issues.
To be specific, we pulled in $72,000 in revenues for 2014. This figure came from 250-300 households, business memberships, and community sponsorships. Around 93% of the MPSA budget provided the neighborhood with daytime patrol shifts along with a few extra shifts in the evening and overnight hours, with only about 7% of the overall budget covering essential administrative expenses. Other than the patrol by off-duty & retired APD officers, all MPSA functions such as court watch, advocacy, research and reports, and collaborative efforts with other neighborhoods and agencies are handled entirely by volunteers.
Adding five late night / overnight shifts per week in order to more effectively target nighttime issues would run us around $40,000 in additional patrol and operational expenses (mainly fuel for the patrol truck). This additional $40k would have to be above and beyond existing membership saturation. This amounts to 145 additional households at $275 each, but this figure could be offset by additional business members, condo assocations, extra donations, and community sponsorships. Even if we fall short of the needed extra $40k we will expand into the overnight hours to reduce the criminal and nuisance activity occuring at those times according to budgetary considerations. The more patrol hours we can sustain, the safer our neighborhood will be.
Our patrol budget is based on membership dues – we are not like Midtown Blue, which is funded by a special property tax in the Midtown Business District. We have seen considerable improvement in the 12 years since we were founded, but much more work remains to be done to maintain and improve neighborhood safety. We encourage those who are not yet members to visit our website and join.
We leave you with some stats recently compiled from old MPSA eblasts. The first part itemizes 35 burglaries reported from October 2007 through March 2008. The next part itemizes 7 burglaries occurring during the same months seven years later, which reflects an 80% reduction in burglaries. Nearly all of the remaining burglaries are occurring outside the most common times (9am to 3pm on weekdays, when most residents are absent from any neighborhood), or involve unusual circumstances.
Supplement 1: Six month period October 2007 through March 2008 – reconstructed from archived Eye on Midtown eblasts (this period no longer available on APD crime map). 35 counts!
Supplement 2: Same six-month period in 2014/2015 – Pulled fresh from APD crime map during in May 2015 (and not recycled from existing MPSA reports). 7 counts = 80% decrease from same 2007/2008 period. At least some of these have been reported via the MPSA website.
In a late-evening incident this past Saturday, a resident on 6th Street near Durant was at home entertaining guests when suddenly an individual barged into his home asking for money. The resident and his guests had moved from an enclosed patio area to inside, when the subject suddenly walked in through the unlocked patio door. The resident immediately called 911, and then followed the suspect to Ponce de Leon Avenue where he was intercepted by off-duty police officers working an extra job in the area. At online forums other residents on the same block reported attempted intrusions by apparently the same individual very shortly before this incident. The suspect, identified as Andre Thomas, was arrested on misdemeanor charges of Criminal Trespass. Upon researching this individual, we found that he had just been released from prison in Michigan for Burglary. We found no other local booking history on him.
In another incident, an elderly man on 9th Street was awakened at 7am by an drunken intruder on a Saturday morning earlier this month (3/14). The victim managed to drive the intruder out of his home with a broom, but when police arrived the intruder was trying to enter a nearby neighbor’s home. The intruder, identified as Nathaniel Jenkins, was promptly arrested on misdemeanor charges of Criminal Trespass, Prowling, and Public Drunkness. Our thorough investigation of his background turned up no other criminal history, and his Facebook profile leads us to believe that this individual had simply been drinking irresponsibly all night long and had no serious criminal intent as he intruded into the victim’s home. Still, the incident left an elderly resident very shaken.
In our previous Major Incidents report we reported on someone crashing into a home on 4th Street near Charles Allen Drive. During the 2am hour, also on a Saturday into Sunday night, a resident was awakened to the sound of someone banging on the front door and then crashing through his living room window. The resident came downstairs, with his firearm drawn, to find a drunken stranger sitting on his sofa cursing and acting in a boisterous manner. He held the intruder at gunpoint until police arrived. Police arrested Ricardo Mora-Olivares for Criminal Damage To Property In The 2nd Degree and Public intoxication. According to the police report in the case, the suspect told the arresting officer that he had been drinking at a local bar, and that he was just looking for a place to sleep. The victim told police that the suspect inflicted $4200 worth of damage to a front door that he recently installed. The suspect bonded out of jail two days later.
We will monitor these cases and share findings with you because a strong statement needs to be made about intruding into people’s homes – especially in a frightening manner. While the victims were unharmed in these particular incidents, home intruders come with very dangerous (and even deadly) intentions for their victims in many cases. We therefore urge everybody to double-check doors and windows to make sure they are secured – it is very easy to forget doors and windows not frequently opened. Your first line of personal defense lies in making sure unattended doors and windows are securely locked as a matter of habit.
We leave you with a couple of 8-minute personal defense videos covering the possible outcomes to home intrusion situations, and issues surrounding their aftermath.
The notorious fix-your-car scammer, Pedro Soto, has been back out of jail for a month now. Soto became the subject of a police search stemming from a June 2014 incident, when he pulled his car disablement scam on the victim and then allegedly robbed him by claiming to have a gun in his pocket. Once he “fixed” the car, he allegedly directed the victim to a nearby convenience store to buy cigarettes under the threat having a gun in his pocket. The victim reported to police of having been robbed of financial cards, personal identification documents, and $300 in cash during the episode. Once police issued an alert to the community, he was eventually arrested on 7/15/2015 on several charges including Armed Robbery, Kidnapping, and Aggravated Assault. When his case came to trial, the charges were very heavily downgraded from the aforementioned felonies to a single misdemeanor charge of Theft By Deception. Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams sentenced him to time already served in jail. He was released back into the community on 2/10/2015.
Since at least 2010 we have been receiving reports about people who have been victimized by this vehicle disablement scam as they shopped at area businesses. Local media outlets have run numerous stories over the years about the fix-your-car scams in our area, and he was arrested on some of those occasions. He crawls underneath the vehicle to disconnect a cable in the engine area in order to disable the victim’s vehicle. When the victim is unable to start the vehicle upon return, this guy simply appears and offers to “fix” the vehicle for some cash. He seems to target high clearance vehicles, such as SUV’s. Soto also goes by numerous aliases, including Orlando Hernandez and Roberto Aguilar. He is originally from Cuba, hence the description of “island accent” frequently cropping up in suspect descriptions. He has 28 bookings for the Fulton County jail alone for things like Criminal Trespass, various theft offenses, and drug possession. For several years Midtown Tire, one of our community sponsors for the patrol, has regularly been receiving calls for assistance related to this scam, but his latest jail stay coincided perfectly with the longest period without reports of the car repair scam.
If you return to your car and find it disabled:
Some pictures of this individual:
Until this week… On Thursday Ricky Love was spotted first on North Avenue, and a short while later at Ponce & Myrtle during lunchtime. Please heed our warning that this individual is very dangerous and irrational, and police must use advanced-level tactics in order to intercept him. If you encounter Ricky Love we implore you to steer well clear of him, and if he approaches you be very attentive as you calmly move to a safer location. If he is having an episode such as the ones in the video call 911 immediately, as this is when he is most imminently dangerous to bystanders and passers-by. Most of the time he will move on within a few minutes, but he is liable to inflict serious injuries at any time. Hopefully we can develop effective long-term measures to protect our community – before someone gets hurt again.
To bring you up to date on the Ricky Love case, we share with you some items previously published:
1. Narrative on assault 8/21/2006 Sent to MPSA by the victim of the assault on Peachtree
I wanted to bring your attention to a situation that I experienced on August 21st at approximately 4:45pm.
I was heading south on Peachtree St. on the west side of the street and noticed a black male on the sidewalk in front of Gordon Biersch yelling at himself (as no one else was present) and waving his arms around as if he were fighting someone. I continued to walk ahead and decided to just ignore this person, so not to make eye contact or to give him a reason to ask for money or show any aggression towards me.
I was between Spire and Gordon Biersch as the gentlemen walked past me and once he was out of my vision and well to my side and to the back of me started punching me in the head, the neck and the back until I loss my balance and fell over a wire or rope that was used to secure perhaps a newly planted tree. I was fortunate that I didn’t fall in to the street at rush hour.
He walked off as I lay on the ground and no one attempted to go after him and I watched as he turned west on 7th St. He did not steal anything from me nor did he ask me for anything. I reported it to Midtown Blue by phone and then physically walked over there. Officer Kilgore of the APD took my report.
I went back to Midtown Blue the following day to ride around Midtown late afternoon with one of the officer’s to try and identify the attacker. They also took pictures of my bruises at that time. I did identify a black male that was yelling at himself and throwing his arms which happened to be sitting on the sidewalk up against my condo building (Metropolis) and I understand that he was arrested that night.
The next day I received a call from a detective that needed me to try and pick out the attacker from a picture line up, which I did. It was the same person that I id’d in front of Metropolis the previous day.
The attacker, Rick Love, has been charged with aggravated stalking and aggravated battery. He was to go in front of the Grand Jury on Friday, September 1st and was scheduled to be on an All Purpose Calendar the same day. There is a preliminary hearing scheduled for September 7th, not sure of room or time at this point.
Please feel free to share this information with the Safety Committee and other’s. I’m happy to keep you posted on any upcoming hearing dates and further information as it relates to this case and certainly would welcome any and all support from you and other’s in attending any upcoming court dates and hearings.
2. Report from first hearing of Ricky Love (reported in Eye on Midtown in 2006)
Ricky Love is accused of assaulting a Midtown female resident as she was walking on Peachtree Street from the Metropolis toward Gordon Biersch. This was an unprovoked attack. He is noted for years of menacing the community with his highly irrational conduct and violent episodes.
This case was discussed in some detail at the Midtown Safety Meeting (the report of which is still forthcoming) on September 11th and the request was made for all who could, to attend his hearing whenever we received notice. A number of people attending the meeting had had personal physical encounters with Ricky Love, or have witnessed some of his frightening episodes. There was lot of talk about how dangerous he is to society. During the discussion, the question was asked many times, “What can we do to get this man off the streets for good?”
The notice of Ricky Love’s first hearing came the day before he had a hearing in Fulton County Superior Court at 9:30 am the very next day! Midtown Neighbors Association and Midtown Ponce Security Alliance both sent out e-blasts announcing the hearing and asking those who could to attend.
Seven people from the Midtown commununity – Kent Hackmann, Dan Weinheimer, Rufus Terrill, Mark Hallenberg, Peggy Denby, Joe Williams, and Steve Gower – attended this hearing.
The Judge had been informed that the neighborhood had sent representatives and they wanted to speak to him directly. When Judge Schwall came to the court room, he very quickly asked who was there from Midtown and we all raised our hands. He then asked for comments. Several court watch attendees all spoke to the court about their threatening, personal encounters with Ricky Love. One explained that this behavior had been going on for a number of years. Peggy Denby and another Midtown spoke about general neighborhood safety concerns and how Ricky Love is a menace to our quality of life.
Judge Schwall then ruled as follows:
We believe that we have answered the previous question, “What can we do to get this man of the streets for good?” The answer is: We can do it by appearing in court and giving the Judges the information they need to take people off the streets. The police cannot take people off the street except to arrest them. Affected citizens and victims must come together to do what we did this morning. It appears the court system does not work all that well in that there was very little information in the courtroom this morning specific to Ricky Love other than what we, the affected citizens, offered.
This was a real testament to the power of the people. We went there to protect ourselves and our neighborhood from a very dangerous person. We delivered that message and it was heard. This was only the first hearing for Ricky Love, and more will follow culminating in the trial itself.
After the hearing, two social workers came up to us from Community Friendship. They came to the hearing because of their concern about Ricky Love being allowed back on the streets. We exchanged information and agreed to keep them informed.
3. Article in Sunday Paper [defunct] – publication date estimated late July or early August 2009
Midtown battles the same offenders over and over
“Unless they are caught with a gun or drugs on them, the judges are not going to do anything and the suspects know that.”—APD officer who spoke on condition of anonymity
Yet another concern is Ricky Love, who is currently in jail after years of terrorizing people in Midtown. The Fulton County Superior Court convicted him in September 2008 for aggravated assault. Love was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment but credited with two years already served in pre-trial detention. The judge suspended the remainder under two conditions: Love must undergo treatment for mental health issues and banishment from Fulton County.
Although crime is down overall in Midtown, according to the MPSA, recidivism remains a constant source of worry. Some residents have seen the same faces in the backs of police cars so often they can identify the offenders and rattle off their rap sheets.
The issue of recidivism is so pressing that Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves showed up at a very heated press conference held by Mayor Shirley Franklin and Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington last week to point out the role that it might be playing in Atlanta’s disturbing crime problem. Eaves said a majority of the occupants of the Fulton County Jail will be re-arrested within three years of their release. He also pointed out that the jail is the metro area’s leading provider of mental health services, since most public mental health resources have been cut over the past few decades. Eaves said he was tired of seeing the mentally ill, substance-addicted, poor and homeless incarcerated.
The MPSA does not cast the blame on Atlanta City Hall or the police department, but on the judges who release the offenders, who then return to Midtown and commit the same crimes again.
“Unless they are caught with a gun or drugs on them, the judges are not going to do anything and the suspects know that,” says one policeman, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Judges typically do not speak to the press, and District Attorney Paul Howard could not be reached for comment. A staffer says the DA’s stable of attorneys were all attending a conference last week.
But, according to Clayton County Juvenile Court Judge Steve Teske, it’s the district attorney—in any court—who has the most control over things like recommending that bail be denied, or offering a plea bargain, two things that often determine whether repeat offenders wind up back on the street. According to Teske, immediate past president of the Council of Juvenile Court Judges of Georgia and former delegate to the assembly of the American Correctional Association representing adult community corrections, most serious crimes in Atlanta are bound over to Fulton County Superior Court from Municipal Court.
At that point, the district attorney would tell the presiding judge why an individual may or may not be a threat to the community. The district attorney, says Teske, has the responsibility to tell the judge whether he would recommend that bail be denied or set high enough to reflect the seriousness of the offense. The idea is to make sure the accused person shows up for trial. Someone who owns no property and has no job is more likely not to show up than someone who has a lot to lose.
“We live in a free society, not a police state. Almost everyone has a right to bail,” says Teske, “or to be bonded out.” Some are released on what is called an “OR” bond—that’s “own recognizance,” which means they don’t pay a dime to be let out. “But, if they are a danger to the community, they can be denied bail or bond.”
It’s during that time between arrest and court date that neighbors may be seeing previously nabbed criminals back in their neighborhoods. That’s also when police may be picking up the offenders for yet another crime.
While some point to jail overcrowding as a culprit, Teske said that really should not figure into a judge’s sentencing equation.
The Fulton County Jail normally holds 2,250 inmates and is one of the largest in the country. But according to Chief Jailer Riley Taylor, because of a jail renovation project currently underway, it holds fewer inmates than usual.
Under the Master Jail Complex Plan, the Fulton County Jail will be expanded to hold 5,035 inmates. Until then, inmates are being outsourced to the DeKalb County Jail, Hall County Jail, and Union City Jail.
Instead of keeping them locked up, Taylor believes the key to stopping repeat offenders is to intervene in their lifestyles of crime, violence and chemical dependency.
“Breaking this cycle would lower crime, reduce the crime effect upon victims, prevent future victims, and enhance overall public safety,” says Taylor. “This is what community policing and crime prevention is all about.” SP
Photos and write-up by Steve Gower/MPSA
Midtown’s 12th annual National Night Out block party was held Tuesday night August 5th at Myrtle & 5th. The MNA co-sponsored the party with MPSA. The event was a huge success with an attendance of around 250 residents. Major Whitmaire, the Zone 5 commander, and several other APD officers were in attendance. Sgt. Cooper and Officer Powell who work for MPSA helped with traffic control and talked to our many members. Residents had an opportunity to meet and talk representatives from APD, The Atlanta Fire Department, and the Fulton County DA’s office.
A great time was had by all as we made a strong statement about our commitment to making Midtown a safer neighborhood. Zaxby’s on Ponce was a big supporter as were the two Target stores in Buckhead. Mary Mac’s continued the tradition of supplying their famous peach cobbler which was gone before the night was through.
If you were there we might have a picture of you! Check out the gallery below…