Special Report: About the Criminals We Deal With
Last month we put out our prison & parole report showing the status of some our most serious offenders. Unfortunately, the majority of our street criminals remain active and unincarcerated. As we often say, the many reasons that we need a patrol have names, and over the years we have come to recognized distinct groupings for street criminals each with its own set of foundational characteristics. This guides us in our patrol and strategy planning in order to target and address distinct profile patterns bombarding us on multiple fronts.
We therefore keep a watchlist of problematic individuals that have come to our attention. In our years of operation the patrol has dealt with hundreds of individuals. Others have come to our attention either through direct observation, or from reports coming from residents and businesses in the neighborhood. Of these, we only catalog those who either maintain a chronic or recurring presence in the area, or have perpetrated very serious crimes in the neighborhood. In addition, there is a small handful of additional individuals whom we treat as “at-risk” rather than as criminals or worse. Currently, the watchlist has 362 individuals, and we have sorted them into several major groupings.
MOST CHRONIC GROUPINGS
- Groups I, II, and III comprise 83% of the watchlist. These are the ones creating the most problems for the neighborhood, and drive the need for a patrol.
Group I: Ponce & Boulevard - These appear chronically in the Ponce & Boulevard area primarily for drug-related purposes. The Ponce Hotel plays a heavy role in their chronic presence by either housing criminals in the area, allowing tenants to draw in others that loiter on that property, or allowing undesirables to loiter on the property. Street drugs form the foundational characteristic of this bunch – they live for one thing, and one thing only: their next hit of drugs. Because of this group, Ponce & Boulevard is where Crack (coming mostly from Bedford-Pine area) meets Meth (coming from the Cheshire Bridge area).
This street drug culture spawns a myriad of other detrimental issues. Historically, street prostitution was the most prominent and obtrusive feature of this group when we started the MPSA in 2003. Quite a few (mostly white) female street prostitutes and (mostly) white male meth-addicted street hustlers ping-ponging between P&B and the Cheshire Bridge area operated in this area. While street prostitutes are not nearly as visible as before, they are still around.
Drug-related street prostitution is only the beginning. This profile group engages in a lot of procurement crime, such as car break-ins and burglaries. They break into cars and homes, and peddle the stolen goods around Ponce & Boulevard to buy drugs, or trade them for drugs.
Over the years, we have seen a dramatic reduction in the presence of these criminals, but too many still linger. The final closing of the Ponce Hotel will be instrumental in achieving further reduction of street criminals revolving around Ponce & Boulevard. The closing of this anchor point, at least in its current incarnation, remains anxiously awaited. Redevelopment and the ensuing gentrification will ultimately finish the job for us at Ponce & Boulevard, and eliminate these criminals as a distinct profile group.
This is a complex group, and there is more to it than the Ponce Hotel. The drug trade revolving around the Bedford-Pine apartments also plays a major but gradually decreasing role in the problems (thanks to Councilman Kwanza Hall’s Year of Boulevard initiative). Still, Bedford-Pine remains a problem area as long as its management fails to prevent unauthorized tenants from settin up camp and dealing drugs. And then Bedford-Pine does not encompass all of the drug activity in the area immediately to the south of our patrol area.
There were also a couple individuals living in the service area and known to be trafficking drugs and stolen goods. We also had some problem tenants sprinkled around the neighborhood contributing to the Ponce & Boulevard phenomenon. We have managed to identify and get them pushed out of the neighborhood. Over the years we identified some vagrant encampments like Camp Burger King, had those cleaned out, and ended up routing out a number of undesirables from the area as a result. Several flophouses on North Avenue just east of Boulevard, known as Crackhouse Row, are now burned out and boarded up.
Nowadays the remaining druggies revolving around Ponce & Boulevard generally know not to come into the residential area, and to keep a low profile otherwise. We did this in part with “unwanted” posters placed in strategic places, and aggressively court-watched those not keeping a low profile (like Andrew Arnett and Jackie Sue Hunter). They know that they will stay in prison for their maximum prison sentence, and not make parole, if we find out about them getting arrested for something.
Group II: Trans Prostitute Gang - These are the trans prostitutes appearing in the southwest portion of the MPSA service area on a nightly basis. Street prostitution is a foundational characteristic of this segment of the watchlist, but they engage in other criminal activity too. Of all the street criminals, their banding together for criminal purposes makes them most cohesive of our street criminal categories. By comparison, the individuals in the other groupings tend to be solitary offenders. Prostitution in a residential area, combined with their gang-like modus operandi, makes this group particularly problematic. Of all the criminal groupings, the trans prostitutes have budged the least and remain dead-set on maintaining the southwest portion of our service area as their territory. Their presence also compounds the problems inflicted by Group III (below). More about the trans prostitute gang in our latest prostitution report.
Group III: Prowlers - The prowlers roaming around the neighborhood consist mainly of vagrants staying in shelters or camping in the area, or otherwise living on the streets. Drug-related vagrancy is the common denominator of this (somewhat of a catch-all) grouping. The prowler group is alot like the Ponce & Boulevard group, except we have made the distinction between those frequenting Ponce & Boulevard, and the street people who do not. While Bedford-Pine drives alot of Group I (above), Peachtree-Pine’s influence contributes much more to the prowler phenomenon. Feeding programs also compound this problem group.
Many appear in the area of Cypress & 7th Streets as male street hustlers, but crop up in the MPSA service area as prowlers, dope boys, street burglars, and car break-in perps. These crimes are also perpetrated by vagrants camping in places like the Beltline behind Piedmont Park. In fact, we attribute nearly all of the remaining car break-ins and many of the burglaries to the prowler group. Sometimes they perpetrate street muggings, and can be seen casing blocks in the neighborhood. They come around day and night.
Among this eclectic group are also some perverts like Nakia Graham and Tywong McCoy, who are notorious for flashing and fondling themselves at women. This groups is also known for a moderate volume of urban camping camping – on business properties, vacant houses, along alleyways, in Piedmont Park and especially the wooded areas around the park. The dope boys drawn in by the trans prostitute gang are also in this group.
Group IV: Major Criminals - These are by far the most serious, but thankfully there are not many of them. Group IV consists of criminals who have perpetrated one-time major incidents, but appear randomly. They are not known to appear in the area chronically or regularly. These are not street people but mostly roving robbers sometimes striking other neighborhoods along with Midtown. We are happy to say that much of this group is in prison. Examples among these dangerous criminals include Nyquarious Edwards (9th Street carjacking), Sean Jessie (Penn Avenue home invasion), and Dennis Stallings (robbery perp in the February 2013 rash and was later sent to prison).
The typical scenario among robbery suspects is that they rove around town, sometimes in a stolen car, and hunt for potential victims walking along the streets. In some cases they park somewhere and walk around to prowl around for victims. This is reflected by the fact that in many robberies, stolen credit cards are used in relatively far away places like East Point and SW Atlanta within an hour after the victim is robbed. More about this phenomenon in our report on robberies from February 2013:
There is not a whole lot we can do at patrol level to prevent these, except to have an officer around as much as possible to increase the chance that these perps are quickly apprehended. These situations are always major calls, and require advanced APD resources because of the extremely dangerous nature of these individuals. Again, these are thankfully rare but very serious when they do strike.
Group V: Day Laborers - Mostly hispanic males congregating in front of the Home Depot on Ponce who sometimes camp, urinate, drink in public places, and generate nuisance complaints. Our watchlist currently has only one individual from this category. Issues with this group tend to be limited to nuisance activity, and most reports of activity among this group are not pegged to specific individuals. We are also seeing fewer nuisance and criminal issues among this group than we did five years ago given that a collaborative effort between APD and MPSA has brought this issue under a reasonable measure of control to ensure that community concerns of more serious criminal activity, perhaps gang activity, never materialized.It is important to note that we do not routinely catalog day laborers as such, as day laboring is a perfectly legitimate form of employment. They are only added to the watchlist when a criminal offense or recurring nuisance activity is noted.
The one individual from this category has a history of belligerence, obtrusive loitering, public drunkenness, and kicking someone’s dog. He’s still around, but seems to have mellowed out.
Group VI: Misc. Criminals & Problem Individuals - These do not fit into any of the other categories, and tend to be unique types of cases. Issues in this category almost always involve individuals appearing regularly or living in/near the neighborhood. Among these individuals we are not aware of involvement with street drugs or prostitution. Some like Kenneth Lamb are labeled as psychopaths.
Group VII: Other (nearby) neighborhoods - These individuals primarily appear in other neighborhoods or to a limited extent non-MPSA Midtown. This category is designed to accomodate reports and intel coming from other neighborhoods, and special requests from APD published in Eye on Midtown. We file them under this category if they are not known or believed to be ongoing Midtown issues, and sometimes stand a good chance of becoming Midtown issues later. Example: the individual who assaulted the woman in the park in Old Fourth Ward. There are only a small handful of these.
After 11 years of operation, we continue to make progress toward optimizing public safety & order in our beautiful neighborhood, but much work remains to be done. We work in two ways: by funding a neighborhood patrol through a membership drive, and by working to reduce the need for the patrol through efforts like court watch & collaboration with APD and other public officials. Ongoing support from neighbors like you is very much appreciated, and we look forward to taking Midtown even further in overcoming these challenges, and thereby enhancing the Midtown experience.
In an upcoming report we will discuss how we rate individual street criminals and problem persons.