The City Council passed the voluntary crime reduction program with a 6-1 vote, with Goldstein opposed, after a lengthy discussion throughout the past two weeks that pitted Goldstein against the rest of the council. That discussion continued Wednesday night, and the ordinance passed, despite a comment from a representative from the Atlanta Apartment Association, Penelope Round, who attended the meeting to request the council not vote on the ordinance.
“I’m just here to ask for a little bit more time,” she said. “I’m very supportive of what the chief is doing. ... We just haven’t seen an ordinance like this before.”
Round told the council her association would like more time to look over the ordinance to provide comment and advice to the council about it. The association’s advice would help, Round said, because it has helped remove barriers to participation for apartment complexes before, such as providing legal help and access to the owners of apartments.
But Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly rejected Round’s request, saying it wasn’t the police department’s responsibility to react to her requests as an organization. Police need to focus on preventing crime, she said.
“I just don’t know if I’m in support of our public safety department benchmarking with an association that represents the masses,” Kelly said. “I can’t support them working with you on the language of the ordinance.”
Police can now ask complexes with higher rates of crime than the city average to be a part of the voluntary program to work to reduce crime there.
Once an apartment complex is part of the program, it will have to pay a $250 fee to have police give suggestions on ways to fix up the property so less crime will happen. This include having a sturdy and adequately tall fence, trimming shrubs and having good lighting, said Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn, who proposed the ordinance.
It would also allow police to go on the apartment complex’s property to search for city code violations of health or safety, Flynn said.
Goldstein, known for defending property owners’ rights, said although he supported reducing crime, he thought the ordinance was too imposing because it gave the police the right to tell business owners how to do business.
“Where do we have right to regulate day-to-day operations of a city apartment business,” Goldstein said.
But in reaction to his comments, the police chief and city attorney worked together to water down the language of the ordinance so police can’t request anything the city code doesn’t already require and participation in the program is now voluntary, not mandatory.
The police chief said the new ordinance is aimed at working with apartment complex owners to get the crime level where it should be — lower.
“Really what we intend to do with this is encourage (apartment complexes) to work with us,” Flynn said.
He said the ordinance was created by police after many residents in crime-ridden areas of the city complained to police that their homes were unsafe.
“We’re very much recommending this on behalf of the decent, law-abiding residents,” Flynn said.
Mayor Steve Tumlin said he thought the ordinance was justified, even though it threatened to encroach on individual rights, because reducing crime is a necessity.
Many members of the council agreed with Flynn’s mission to fight crime, especially following a rash of violent crime in the area. In the last three weeks, three shooting incidents took place near Marietta, and two of them were at apartment complexes.
On June 7, a murder-suicide shooting at a Kroger in west Cobb left a married couple dead, Cobb police said. On May 29, a man was shot dead while he attempted to invade a home on Dorsey Road, just outside of Marietta, Officer Mike Bowman said. Later the same day, a shooting at The Dwells @ 750 complex off of Franklin Road injured two people and killed one man, Officer David Baldwin, Marietta Police Department spokesman said.
In reaction to these shootings, which happened during the period of time the council was discussing the ordinance, Cooper Kelly said she wanted to give the police room to improve the city.
“We’ve got to find a way to address these horrific events that are happening,” Kelly said.