Opening Day festivities for the Northside Youth Organization (NYO) baseball and softball leagues at Chastain Park in Buckhead were marred by an incident in which a woman’s car was stolen as she was dropping her children off.

According to a preliminary police report and a message posted to the Nextdoor app and website, March 13 at 12:28 p.m., an Atlanta Police Department officer responded to a 911 call about a white Mercedes Benz SUV being stolen while the driver, a woman with three children who play sports at NYO, left the engine running while dropping her kids off at the parking lot’s roundabout before parking it. With three of the car’s four doors open, a suspect slid into the driver’s seat and sped off through the parking lot.

“As her son was getting his second leg out of the car, someone (it happened so fast that she didn’t even see the person(s) - but there were apparently some witnesses) jumped in the car and drove 50+ miles per hour out of the NYO parking lot,” a woman wrote in the nextdoor.com message. “Apparently there were kiddos everywhere, along with parents/spectators, walking from/to their vehicles.

“The APD officer actually started crying while she was speaking to me, saying that she sees cars stolen all the time but was sick over the fact that there was so much disregard for the kids/adults who were obviously in danger.”

According to the police, no weapons were used in stealing the car and there is no camera in the area that could have captured the incident, so there is no description of the suspect. However, the stolen Mercedes “was seen being followed by a black in color (Dodge) Charger with (a) possible North Carolina (license) plate,” the report stated.

In an email sent to NYO families later that day, Josh Burr, the organization’s executive director, said he’s concerned about how dangerous this incident was.

“While the impact of being left standing alone in the parking lot was stunning enough, it was the speed at which the individuals who stole the car drove as they made their way out of the lot that was the most concerning,” he said. “My understanding is that children and adults were everywhere, and that we were lucky that nobody was injured.

“Over the next several days, I will be working with the Atlanta Police Department, Chastain Park partners and other stakeholders in the Chastain Park community to devise an even more encompassing plan to keep families safe. Crime has been on the rise in Buckhead – but this time, it hit extremely close to home.”

Both Burr and the police said everyone should be aware of your surroundings, to make sure valuables are not left in vehicles and to be more careful when dropping off, picking up or idling in the parking lot and to not leave your keys in the car or the engine running. The police also provided a video with tips, and it can be viewed by visiting https://youtu.be/OSBeXPD0Vqo.

The incident comes at a time when crime is up in Buckhead and the city’s overall police force has dropped from about 2,000 officers during Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration to about 1,600 today. A group called the Buckhead Exploratory Committee was formed late last year to look into incorporating that community out of the city of Atlanta, with public safety one of the main reasons.

Also, in 2020 about a dozen organizations started the Buckhead Security Plan, a program in which they are partnering to hire off-duty cops to patrol the area’s commercial district at night to augment the Atlanta Police’s own patrols. But it does not go into residential areas such as Chastain Park.

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