Citizens want safety and police officers want to be safe. In DeKalb County there have been some untimely deaths involving police and citizens. But before we indiscriminately place blame on the police, concerned citizens must get the whole picture on what's going on in these streets.
For the record, I'm totally against police misconduct of any sort. At the same time, I'm not going to bash the police because of the ill behavior of DeKalb County's criminal element, as well as the CEO and county commissioners' negligence in not allocating more funds to hire sufficient numbers of uniformed police officers. A clear perspective and constructive criticism is what I'm trying to provide.
Currently DeKalb County has approximately 325 uniformed police officers, give or take promotions to detectives or plainclothes divisions. There are five precincts in DeKalb. The 5th precinct, which includes The Mall at Stonecrest, is 26 square miles. At any given time during the day there are 700,000 people in DeKalb County. The police department has three working shifts. And each shift has only 10 uniformed police officers in each precinct. That's only 50 uniformed officers per shift.
In a county with a population of 700,000 to 1 million people, 50 uniformed police officers per shift is madness. Any college criminal justice major will tell you that you need at least 1,400 uniformed police officers for an area this large and a population rapidly growing.
Presently, on any given day, each officer can receive 20 to 25 calls per shift. Now think about the stress that each officer must face each day! Why are police reacting to adverse situations and having low morale? Because the police department is functioning under stress.
Instead of the public being reactionary about crime, how about the citizens challenging the CEO and county commissioners to hire more officers, so the police can establish strong community policing programs; so citizens and police can have proactive communication lines to deter crime.
Citizens, stop crying foul after the fact! Get your plan together, show up to a county commissioners meeting and hold the county leadership accountable. If you want to know how bad the county is becoming, go to The Mall at Stonecrest on Saturday nights between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. and witness how these young people are acting. Ask the security staff and DeKalb police officers how many fights they break up per night, as well as how many weapons they take from these people.
Unless the public holds the politicians accountable DeKalb will become a killing field. Why build new subdivisions and widen new streets when new blood will be shed on these streets? DeKalb County has the money to hire new officers and create a healthy community policing program. But where is the political will and the vision to do so?
Citizens want safety and the police want to be safe! It's simple. With all the churches in DeKalb, I challenge the God-fearing, Jesus-loving people to get involved in making changes. Faith without works is dead! Don't wait until crime comes to you.
And if you don't get involved, don't be reactionary when the criminal element takes over your subdivision or community.
Rent the movie "Fort Apache the Bronx," and watch what happens when you don't get involved. When criminals have more rights than working citizens, chaos is bound to rule a society. It's time for visionary leadership not politics and business as usual.
And remember, citizens want safety and police want to be safe!
Kevin Oliveira lives in McDonough.