Greenhaven Safer than Buckhead, Virginia Highlands and Lenox Square

Stereotype Busting: Some “Bad” Neighborhoods Have Lower Crime Rates than “Good” Neighborhoods

by Ari Meier

In metro Atlanta, Georgia, something interesting is forming and taking shape.  Coalescing in southern DeKalb County is a movement that is a) trying to form a city (Greenhaven) to help improve the quality of life of its inhabitants and b) bringing together critical-thinking community members to address the issues and debunk the myths that often gather around diverse areas – in this case the issue of safety. This article shows that if crime is one of the criteria you use to decide where to live, you are much safer choosing proposed Greenhaven than Virginia Highland, Morningside, Buckhead and Lenox Square.

Crime is a hot topic. With a multitude of publications ranking the ‘safest neighborhoods’, many understandably make it a priority to peruse these lists and guides with the hopes of not only avoiding a high crime area when researching an area before purchasing a home, but to insure that the chosen neighborhood has a low likelihood of changing. Looks can be deceiving.

The issue is that people rarely get hard data to support this assessment.  These labels bring huge economic costs: disinvestment, high unemployment in the community, low economic development potential, and lower home appreciation rates. Some of these communities have median incomes that are similar or close to that of other communities, but the high crime label supersedes any positive information about the community. You can go to much of the U.S. and find this dynamic repeated. A part of metro Atlanta is presented as a case study on this phenomenon and hard data is used to prove that looks are deceiving.

Using DeKalb County Georgia, and in particular, a proposed section that the think tank team refers to as Greenhaven is a case study of perception vs. reality when it comes to crime. The author took zip codes within the proposed Greenhaven and compared them to contiguous and nearby areas that are considered affluent, desirable and high in property value.  This comparison was about assessing whether the following quote from a recent article in the major newspaper was reflective of the area.

“In south DeKalb County, where the 20-year-old Campbell lived his entire life, violent deaths of young men are so common that a shorthand term has evolved for the nighttime vigil that follows so many shootings. It is, simply, a candlelight”, declared the recent AJC article, “Life, death and gangs in south DeKalb.”

I hope these young men rest in peace and that their families and other survivors find healing and peace.

The AJC story highlights several young men that were killed since this past summer, and includes a map of where the young men lived and died. One problem: although ‘south DeKalb’ is in the story’s title, based on the story’s map, most of the killings occurred outside of south DeKalb- far outside, as in the Tucker/ Smoke Rise area. Most will agree that a killing is never good no matter where it happens, but in this case, the title of the article doesn’t accurately portray where the majority of these killings occurred.

The news reporting status quo goes something like this: “There was a killing in DeKalb”, “A young woman was murdered in ___________”. You are free to insert “DeKalb”, “DeKalb County” or “south DeKalb” onto the blank line. The AJC article and local news stations make it seem as if DeKalb County, specifically south DeKalb, is rife with crime.

South DeKalb has its share of problems, with crime being one of them. The point of this is not to trivialize those who have experienced crime of any type in south DeKalb. This is about correcting when there are errors. According to recent data from Moving.com, a part of the Realtor.com network, the risk of being a crime victim is higher in parts of the Atlanta metro area that you would least expect. For instance, in many Buckhead and midtown zip codes, your chances of being a victim of a crime are much higher than in south DeKalb.

What is crime risk and how is it measured?

From the Moving.com site:

Total Crime Risk - A score that represents the combined risks of rape, murder, assault, robbery, burglary, larceny and vehicle theft compared to the national average of 100. A score of 200 indicates twice the national average total crime risk, while 50 indicates half the national risk. The different types of crime are given equal weight in this score, so murder, for example, does not count more than vehicle theft. Scores are based on demographic and geographic analyses of crime over seven years.

Personal Crime Risk - Index score (100=National Average) that represents the combined risks of rape, murder, assault and robbery.

Property Crime Risk - Index score (100=National Average) that represents the combined risks of burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.

I’ve gathered and looked at crime data from 19 zip codes, ranging from midtown, most of Buckhead/ Lenox Square, Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Brookhaven, Tucker, Atlanta Lavista Road/ North Druid Hills Rd areas, city of Decatur, Virginia-Highlands/ Morningside, Little 5 Points/ Inman Park, Candler Park, much of south DeKalb excluding Ellenwood and Lithonia. Five of the 19 zip codes are in south DeKalb (lying wholly in the proposed city of Greenhaven). The Atlanta, Tucker and city of Decatur zip codes were chosen because they are areas that are stereotypically thought of as great areas and are highly sought out to live in and are entertainment and/ or dining destinations.

Some highlights:

The five zip codes in south DeKalb County (specifically the proposed city of Greenhaven: 30083, 30088, 30034, 30032, and 30035) have an average crime score of 186 for all crimes, the average personal crime score is 151 and the average property crime score is 197. The national crime score average is 100 in all types of crime.

If you are living, working or playing in some of the other zip codes, your chances of being a crime victim increases significantly.

·         Out of the 19 studied zip codes, you have the highest chance of being an overall crime victim in zip code 30306 (Virginia-Highland/ Morningside areas). The overall crime score for this zip code is 641. This is more than three times that of the south DeKalb zip codes.

·         Zip code 30326 (Buckhead/ Lenox Square) has the highest score for personal crimes with 737. This is nearly a five times greater chance of being a victim of murder, rape, assault and robbery than you would in south DeKalb.

·         The Virginia-Highland/ Morningside area (30306) has the highest score in property crime with 671. This is more than three times the chances of being a victim of a car theft, home burglary and larceny than in south DeKalb.

·         Stone Mountain zip code 30088 had the second lowest crime score in all categories after zip code 30329 (Lavista Road/ North Druid Hills Road area).

So if south DeKalb is NOT a hot bed of crime, why does the area have this reputation? It may be more about human nature than some great conspiracy. Many will repeat “truths” without experiencing first-hand that which they purport to know about. If your opinion on south DeKalb is formed mainly by the news media, then you will think that its gang and crime ridden.

South DeKalb suffers more from disinvestment than crime. It’s an area that’s seen amazing growth during the 70’s and 80’s and as the ethnic demographics changed (without a drastic change in median income) the area’s reputation became increasingly colored by perception rather than reality. Even neighboring Gwinnett County, which has seen an increase in gang-related crimes, gets better treatment in the media.

The AJC story highlighted very real deaths and associations with gangs by these young men, but to include within the article statements such as: “In south DeKalb County, where the 20-year-old Campbell lived his entire life, violent deaths of young men are so common that a shorthand term has evolved for the nighttime vigil that follows so many shootings. It is, simply, a candlelight.” This is inflammatory writing where the writer chose to go with the status quo of throwing around the words “crime”, “murder”, and “gangs” to stick to an area that least deserves it.

Cityhood doesn’t solve everything as there are a myriad of cause and effect dynamics playing out in south DeKalb which has been slowly transforming the area for two decades; but all of this might not matter if the community is denied a right to vote on being a catalyst for change. There are many in southern DeKalb County that’s lived in the area for decades and have seen the quality of life decline. They want a reset and for them this reset is incorporating the area into Greenhaven.

Don’t deny us the right to vote on whether we want government closer to us or the status quo.

Click here to see the full crime comparison database.

Click here to download this article.

Sources:

AJC. Life, death and gangs in south DeKalb

Zipmap. DeKalb/ Fulton County Zip Codes

Moving.com. Compare cities

Crimemapping. DeKalb County crimes

 

Why We in Greenhaven Cannot Wait

Why We in Greenhaven Cannot Wait

 

MLK Jr.

 

Depending on who you are, where you are, and the mark on a calendar year, the very mention of the term “cityhood” engenders an array of contending emotions.  Without hearing any other single word, one might feel anger, rigid resolve, distinction, elitism, isolation, safety, despair, caution, suspicion, fatigue.  Another side of the same town of people might feel another way for entirely different reasons.  They might feel hope, possibilities, promise, anticipation, renewal, inspiration.  Fittingly, we could also be talking about the flowof feelings within the Civil Rights Movement led by scores of advocates and the man whose life, ministry and mission we celebrate this week – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

While I dare not equate the scope and significance of the Civil Rights Movement to any campaign to launch a new incorporated city, some fundamentals to the two scenarios and the debate remain much the same.

Civil Rights advocates were never to be seen as a monolith of ideas and issues. They were quite diverse in their opinions. The debate was even heated at times.  But the common ground on which they stood, the fundamental truth for which they prayed and marched and were jailed, was simply to have the same right as others had – to be free to determine their own destiny and to speak their voice with their vote.

Yet, many who sincerely appreciated the stakes still felt that King was moving too fast; that perhaps he should wait to allow more time for fairness and repair to evolve.  There are legislators, opponents and some who are not sure of this Greenhaven movement who echo similar sentiments or fears, who say while others have been given the right to vote for cityhood, we in south DeKalb should “wait.”

I have to admit that my mom confided that as a young woman she didn’t care that much about why a young Martin King was marching.  But as she looked back later on in life at all the times she saw King on TV, all the times people were talking about what he was questioning, she understood that in the end, it had much to do with allowing the full flow of public discourse and participation; the chance to debate, the right to discuss, and the right to learn and disagree.  That is the purpose of a public referendum – an opportunity for people to hear the issue, understand it, discuss and debate it, and then decide/vote for what they want.  That is democracy.

No member in the GA Senate, no member in the State House, especially of the DeKalb Delegation should deny us the vote out of fear or popular discomfort.  There is no justifiable retribution to any legislator for doing the right thing. There is no understandable explanation for why residents of south DeKalb, having fulfilled all that was requested of all other cityhood applicants, should be denied the right given to others – the right to vote on a city they researched and determined to be sustainable. The question arises, “Why are we [in south DeKalb] being treated differently….Why must we wait to be treated fairly?”  We echo Martin Luther King’s question,“Cowardice asks the question, is it safe?  Expediency asks the question, is it politic?  Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But, conscience asks the question, is it right?”

From this hallowed Metro Atlanta ground, I exclaim loudly to our state legislators: don’t deny us the right to vote on Greenhaven cityhood.  Pass the legislation that will allow citizens to vote in a referendum come May 24th.  Then join the conversation and participate in the debate, and enjoy the note in history that you did the right thing.

The CCCSD Communications Team in honor of M.L.King

www.GreenhavenGA.org

The Greenhaven Economic Development Vision/Plan

It’s here – the Greenhaven Economic Development Vision/Plan! 

When the recent (and now defunct) soccer deal for DeKalb County was announced, one Commissioner stated that it was the first project for southern DeKalb in 10 years.  That should not be acceptable.  That is the primary reason why we, the Concerned Citizens for Cityhood in South DeKalb Inc. (CCCSD) are advocating for the city of Greenhaven.  If we want development, jobs, and more and better services, then we need to put ourselves in a position to get it.  And we need to recognize that we must do some things different to get it, because doing the same thing, with the same positions and the same structure for the last 10 years has not produced what we want.  Therefore, CCCSD is excited to offer the Economic Development Vision and Plan for proposed Greenhaven.  The full plan can be viewed at the CCCSD website (www.greenhavenga.org); below is a summary of the plan.

The goal is to create a city that is actively working to create growth and development in multiple locations.  Our Vision and Plan is not a traditional economic development plan such as the one commissioned by DeKalb County in 2015.  It is a community based plan that incorporates citizen participation, promotes growth and/or development, and rewards innovation.  There are 5 phases to this plan.  Some phases should occur simultaneously and some sequentially.

Phase 1: Determining Central Targets for Growth.  With the assistance of the Greenhaven Planning Department, one area will be selected in each of Greenhaven’s 6 Districts that will function similar to a Central Business District. All initial planning, funding, economic development, and community efforts will be targeted toward this area.  As a result, people will enjoy a central commercial area that reflects their landscaping and desires.  Businesses will enjoy less competition initially. Government will maximize the use of its public dollars.

Phase 2: The District Based Art Approach.  To stimulate community involvement, the Greenhaven Planning Department, with the help of artists (preferably local), will engage in art development – a single structure, painting, sculpture, garden or created entity that is a unique, creative reflection of that community.  The primary purpose of this created piece is to help the CAPU get started, change the mindset of current residents, attract prospective residents, and initiate the development of a central business/theme area.  The development of these 6 pieces will be the community’s primary contribution to economic development in their area.

Phase 3: The Contract.  In return for benefiting and beautifying their community, the community will agree to a contract to promote economic development (to be agreed to prior to the execution of Phase 2).  In theory, this contract is similar to an overlay district; however, it is less restrictive.  In exchange for support for Phase 2, the community will agree to:

-          retail/commercial/industrial development in the Central Planning area

-          support for MARTA and/or separate transit-oriented-development in Greenhaven

-          a fast track permitting system for approved commercial or industrial uses

Phase 4: Business Attraction.  The Greenhaven Department of Economic Development in tandem with the Greenhaven Development Authority (if one exists) will develop an economic development strategy based on Greenhaven’s six districts and their Central Planning area.  That strategy will include a) attraction of innovative, first responder companies in targeted industries (e.g., green energy industries) b) identification of companies in targeted industries (the county’s plan is helpful here), c) an approval process that facilitates business development, d) financial tools that accommodate business development, and e) the support and involvement of key ancillary agencies that will facilitate development.

Phase 5: Education and Workforce.  K-12 education is not in the purview of the city.  Nevertheless, its status greatly affects economic development and quality growth.  Therefore, Greenhaven will liaise with the DeKalb Board of Education on a regular basis.  In addition, Greenhaven already enjoys a significant professional population.  Building on that, Greenhaven will work with Quickstart and existing university and community colleges in Greenhaven to implement the latest workforce development methods to match business needs with workforce development and training.

The Vision

The result of these six phases is what we call our Vision.  At the end of this process, Greenhaven will look like an international city populated by citizens of all hues and cultures with a multiple business strategy focused on “green.”  It will represent a creative, attractive, planned growth city with an artistic, intelligent and involved citizenry.  Demographically, the population will be more technical, creative and international. Businesswise, Greenhaven will have simultaneous but differing growth in six spots.  When it comes to environment, land-use and planning, at least for a period of time, Greenhaven will look like a city with planned growth.  Educationally, Greenhaven will be at the cutting edge of local government-public school partnerships. 

Imagine Greenhaven, Your City.  Now imagine this opportunity lost because we didn’t get the right to vote.  Contact your legislator and tell them to not deny us the right to vote; do not deny us this Vision and Plan.

Click here for the full version of the Greenhaven Economic Development Vision and Plan.

 

 

Harmel Codi removed from Auditor selection committee

Harmel Codi, recently a candidate for Commissioner of DeKalb County District 5, was the center of attention at the Legislative Town Hall meeting on Thursday, January 7, 2015.  Ms. Codi, who was recently selected to be a member of the oversight committee that will review candidates for the position of independent internal auditor for DeKalb County has now been removed from the committee. 

The independent Auditor position came about largely as a result of Blueprint DeKalb's efforts to create more fiscal oversight and better governance in DeKalb County. The GA State Assembly approved HB599 which called for several actions to improve governance in DeKalb County.  The removal of Ms. Codi gives the appearance of a political taint to Ms. Codi's removal. Thus, even as efforts are made to restore integrity and transparency to DeKalb County, it seems there are efforts to combat them.

It should be noted that the Charter of proposed Greenhaven has most of the good governance measures called for by Blueprint DeKalb and others including an independent auditor, 2 term limits, citizen appointments to the Ethics Board and Citizen Review Board, and leadership that lives within city limits.  This is all apart from the citizen participation component - Community Area Planning Units. 

Despite offering what almost everyone is saying they want to see, the residents of Greenhaven risk not even getting the opportunity to have these measures because we are being denied the right to vote for cityhood in a public referendum.  Call your legislators and tell them, "Don't deny us the right to vote." 

Greenhaven: A Community Restored (released Dec 17, 2015)

We at CCCSD are advocating to form a new city called Greenhaven.  While we believe strongly in the advantages that forming a city will bring, we acknowledge and pay tribute to the history that Greenhaven stands on.  In forming Greenhaven, we are not turning our back on who we are and what has been done; we are simply adding a new phase, like adding a new member to the family.  In this message, we honor some of the accomplishments in South DeKalb. To read more click here….

Cityhood for a Healthier County (released Dec 7, 2015)

As members of CCCSD travel around the southern part of DeKalb County, we encounter a number of citizens that do not know whether they are in a city or county (unincorporated area) because where they live has the same name as the city (e.g., city of Decatur, Stone Mountain, Clarkston or Lithonia vs. unincorporated Decatur, Stone Mountain, Clarkston or Lithonia).  If you vote for a Mayor, you are in a city. Otherwise, you are in unincorporated county (95% of south DeKalb).  To read more click here....

What does the LaVista Hills and Tucker Vote Mean to Greenhaven? (Released Dec 1, 2015)

On November 3, 2015, the residents of two unincorporated areas took a vote on cityhood.  One proposed city, Tucker, won by a landslide; the other, LaVista Hills, lost by the merest whisper of a vote.  The next day, Dr. Kathryn Rice, the Chair of Concerned Citizens for Cityhood of South DeKalb Inc. (CCCSD), received calls from the press about what the loss in LaVista Hills meant for Greenhaven.  Her answer was,“IT’S GOOD NEWS!” To read more click here...

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