Residents across Macon’s Ingleside neighborhood are taking a new tack in crime prevention.
After hearing about an Atlanta neighborhood’s success, David Lee, of Riverdale Drive, suggested that his neighbors hire an off-duty Macon police officer to patrol their streets.
Lee posted the idea on a neighborhood online message board two weeks ago and has received 60 e-mails of support. Neighbors already have started dropping off checks.
Neighbors are growing tired of car break-ins and residential burglaries, he said.
Macon police Capt. Lionel Doss said there’s been a recent rash of car break-ins in the Ingleside area, and officers have identified two people of interest.
Police officers have increased their presence in the neighborhood in hopes of deterring criminals, he said.
“It just made folks mad,” Shae Hinson, of Wesley Circle, said of the break-ins.
Hinson, who supports hiring an officer, said the entire situation has united many of the vocal young professionals who live in the area as they look for ways to curb crime.
Although the crimes aren’t violent, Lee said neighbors are concerned the break-ins and burglaries could escalate to more serious offenses.
“We want our neighborhood to be safe,” he said.
As of Friday, Lee had collected a little more than $300 from neighbors and hopes to raise enough money to have one officer patrol the neighborhood 20 hours a week for a 90-day trial period.
Long-term, if half of the 450 single family homes in the neighborhood contributed $90, there would be enough money to pay for the patrol for seven months, Lee said.
He said he submitted an application with the police requesting an off-duty officer Jan. 14, but he hasn’t received notice that the application has been approved.
The hourly rate for an off-duty officer is determined by the officer, said Doss, who put the going rate at about $25.
Officers have the same authority and powers while working off-duty as they do on-duty, Doss said.
Having an off-duty officer working in the Ingleside area won’t affect everyday police efforts, he said.
“It’d be another set of official eyes and ears over there,” Doss said.
Bill Harris, of Vista Circle, said he’s willing to pay to make his neighborhood safer, whether the money goes toward hiring more officers or hiring an off-duty officer to patrol his neighborhood.
“I would as long as it accomplishes the same thing,” he said.
While Harris thinks hiring an off-duty officer is a great concept if the program is “well-run and affordable,” he said on-duty officers are doing a good job.
“I think they’re underpaid and understaffed,” he said, adding that he doesn’t blame the mayor, City Council or police department.
“It’s a financial circumstance,” Harris said.
The exact perimeter of the patrol area still is being discussed, but a draft includes a strip of the corridor along Ridge Avenue between Forest Hill Road and Pierce Avenue, Lee said.
“It’s still really new,” he said.
Although all residents may not support hiring an officer, people who don’t pay will still be able to benefit from their neighbors paying, Lee said.
“There’s no getting around it,” he said.
Membership stickers or signs may be issued to neighbors who pay to hire the officer, helping the officer know where to concentrate crime prevention efforts, Lee said.
Peggy Denby, president of the Midtown Ponce Security Alliance in Atlanta, said her neighborhood started hiring off-duty officers in 2003 when the area had problems with prostitution, drug deals, car break-ins and other crimes.
With a yearly budget of $90,000 a year, the neighborhood pays three to four officers. The number of officers and how many hours they work depend on the amount of dues paid by neighbors, she said.
Denby said the security alliance has 200 single-family members and receives money from business sponsors. Dues for individual homes are $275 per year.
The program has been successful in not only deterring crime but also in officers stopping crimes in progress. An officer arrested someone breaking into a car Wednesday, she said.
“We’ll never eliminate all the crime, but we’ve gotten control over it,” Denby said.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.