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Recent shooting sparks discussion about emergency response in Kirkwood

Crime and public safety Kirkwood and East Lake Trending

Recent shooting sparks discussion about emergency response in Kirkwood

Atlanta Police car. Photo by Dean Hesse.

By Angela Walker, contributor

Atlanta, GA — The Kirkwood Neighbors’ Organization (KNO) met Aug. 10, and a recent deadly shooting was top of mind for many residents. 

According to Decaturish media partner Atlanta News First, one person was killed in a shooting in Kirkwood on Aug. 9. The shooting occurred near the intersection of Hosea L. Williams Drive SE and Howard Street NE. 

Lt. Butler with the Atlanta Police Department attended the meeting and took questions. Butler said the investigation is ongoing, but said the suspects knew the victim and that it was not a random act of violence. 

He also shared crime statistics for the year so far for Zone 6; homicide is down 58%, sexual assaults are down 67%, aggravated assault is down 15%, and robberies are down 21%. Overall, Zone 6 violent crime is down for the year. However, there was a spike in motor vehicle thefts, mainly due to thefts of Kia cars driven by a social media challenge. He also mentioned another shooting on Oakview earlier in the month. In this case, the shooting was not a random act of violence because the suspect and victim knew each other.

After Lt. Butler’s update, several residents discussed the difficulty of reaching 911 from the Kirkwood neighborhood. 

Residents said the inability to reach 911 during an emergency is an ongoing problem for years. Residents say to reach anyone, they’re required to call a 10-digit 404 number – (404) 658-6666 – and there’s often a long wait. 

A spokesperson for Atlanta Police told Decaturish there was  “hardware failure” that contributed to the difficulty of reaching emergency responders after the Aug. 9 shooting. 

“The city of Atlanta experienced a hardware failure that impacted the city’s network infrastructure,” the spokesperson said. “The outage affected E-911’s ability to electronically process calls, which caused the E-911 Center to implement its contingency operations. We are investigating to determine the cause of the system outage. The E-911 Division, along with Chief Darin Schierbaum and the City’s public safety responders, understand the importance of a quick response to emergency 911 calls. To provide quality, timely services for anyone who calls 911, we continue to upgrade and evaluate our systems.”

The spokesperson said the city plans to invest $15 million in proceeds from a bond referendum in its E911 infrastructure. The spokesperson said response times have improved recently. The average answer time in 2022 was 29.88 seconds. In 2023, the average answer time is 17.24 seconds. 

The spokesperson said APD responded to the shooting within minutes. The Zone 6 Atlanta Police precinct is just down the street from the scene. 

“An officer was on scene providing CPR within approximately four minutes of E911 receiving the shots fired call,” the spokesperson said. “It is important to note that some people may have been on hold, as a result of the outage; however, officers were aware and enroute to the call within minutes.”

Lt. Butler confirmed that citizens could text 911 for emergency response. Butler acknowledged difficulties in reaching 911 but encouraged residents to continue calling 911 for emergencies. He suggests callers remain on the phone with the operator and provide as much detail as possible. 

City Councilmember Liliana Bakhtiari also attended the KNO meeting and is asking for a town hall meeting where residents can ask questions about the operation of 911 with the COO of the Atlanta Police Department and other officials. She also committed to following up with the Atlanta Police Department to request a town hall meeting so that residents can see a concrete plan for ensuring that the $15 million dollars allocated from bond referendums is in motion and that they will invest in a 911 infrastructure and build a new location within a specified timeframe. 

In other KNO business: 

– The meeting started with an update from Jennifer Freeman, a constituent who spoke on behalf of Congresswoman Nikema Williams, Georgia’s 5th Congressional District.

Freeman said Williams introduced legislation with Senators Ossoff and Warnock to revitalize Atlanta’s Bowen Homes neighborhood. The project received a $400 million investment supporting affordable housing units in Atlanta.  

Williams also secured $12 million in funds for Emory University to expand its HIV self-testing kits for at-risk populations; $4 million for Metro Community Ministries Incorporated to help train young people affected by gun violence and poverty; and $22 million to make Georgia State University’s transportation fleet completely electric. 

– School Board member Michelle Olympiadis said Interim Superintendent Dr. Danielle Battle will start on September 1, 2023. She was a former associate superintendent and interim chief of schools and academics a few years ago. Olympiadis noted she is running for re-election to the school board this year and she will face a challenge from former interim Fulton County Schools Superintendent Kenneth Zeff, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Zeff also attended the KNO meeting. The election is Nov. 7. 

– In other KNO news, the KNO now has 128 members. Sponsorships for 2023 Spring Fling were up to nearly $50,000. This year’s Road Race attracted more than 1,100 runners; past races have only drawn about 800. KNO announced a Save the Date for next year’s event: Saturday, May 18, 2024. 

– In traffic news: With a rise in car crashes at Hosea Williams Drive and 1st Avenue, residents are encouraged to take a survey to assess residents’ safety concerns. The survey results will be shared with the City of Atlanta officials. The survey is available at https://forms.gle/suJ7ZkCxvkvQbpYK7

KNO discussed a proposal from the Georgia Department of Transportation to install a bike lane along Memorial Drive, from Grant Street to Pearl Street, and add pedestrian crossings. 

Due to a 2022 effort of the Transportation Committee, Councilmember Bakhtiari’s office passed legislation in June to install traffic-calming improvements on Oakview Road between Hosea Williams at Kirkwood Triangle to 2nd Ave. It should be installed in late Spring/early Summer 2024.

KNO members also voted to send a letter to the Atlanta Police Department recommending that they prohibit high-speed chases on local streets. 

– KNO approved spending $20,000 to pursue matching grant funding for the Bessie Branham Park Renewal. The renewal includes six projects for the park’s southern half, including restoration of the memorial wall, planting fruit-bearing trees, repairing the urban treehouse deck, a new playground, remediation work for water runoff, and improving the softball diamond. 

This is part of an overall project to renew and improve Bessie Branham Park. 

– The Kirkwood Wine Stroll will be held on Friday, September 15, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., with tickets available online at https://www.kirkwoodwinestroll.com. To learn more about events in Kirkwood, check out the community calendar at https://www.historickirkwood.org/calendar. The Neighborhood Planning Unit meets on the fourth Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. To learn more, visit https://www.atlantanpuo.org/

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