When I was little, someone broke into our house on West Wesley Road in Buckhead.
My two older brothers and I were home. Our parents were not.
It was late and we were in our parents’ room on the second floor watching television when we heard something downstairs.
Our father had a gun cabinet in his closet and we knew where he hid the key. We each grabbed a gun. We didn’t call the police because we weren’t sure if anyone was in the house other than us. If there was, our ill-conceived plan was to capture them or shoot them, I guess.
The house was built in the 1920s. Every step we took creaked loudly no matter how quietly we attempted to move. After a heart-pounding walk through the dark house, we found a bag and several pieces of silver on the floor in the back of the kitchen.
We then split up to search the rest of the house but didn’t find anyone. We did, however, find a little-used side door wide open.
Our parents didn’t believe us when they got home, but it happened. I was all of 7 or 8.
There were other odd occurrences at that house. One morning we woke up to a broken window on the wood-paneled station wagon. Someone had opened the glove box. Its contents were spilled out on the front seat.
We once returned home from vacation to find there had been some kind of party behind our house, with beer cans and broken bottles all over our driveway. One of the revelers knocked down a short brick wall on the side of our driveway with their car on the way out.
I am writing about these events for a little perspective. Buckhead’s crime problem is not so new.
I, like many of you, am concerned about what appears to be a rise in criminal activity. Every week there is news of a murder or a shooting. There are daily reports on Nextdoor.com of cars being stolen or broken into. It is alarming.
I took grief from readers when I wrote a column about crime last year. I was blaming victims. I was being soft on criminals. I should hammer away at the city of Atlanta. I needed to make a bigger deal out of what is happening on our streets, in our parking lots and our filling stations.
Maj. Andrew Senzer, the Atlanta Police Department’s new Zone 2 commander, spoke to the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods at its Jan. 9 meeting. He reinforced some of the things I wrote about.
Overall crime is down in Zone 2, which includes Buckhead.
A quick look at the statistics shows a drop of 2% over the last year. That’s cold comfort, especially considering aggravated assaults are up 12% in Zone 2. That’s a huge problem, no two ways about it.
Senzer told the council half of the cars stolen in Buckhead have the keys in them. He also said a lot of guns are stolen out of cars. The number I heard was more than 200, but that may have been citywide.
He said a Range Rover stolen a few weeks ago from a shopping center not only had the keys in it and was idling, but a shotgun and a box of shells were in the back.
I’m not shifting blame to the victims. Criminals need to be stopped and arrested. Judges have got to stop releasing them on their own recognizance.
But we need to stop making our neighborhoods attractive targets by leaving guns in our glove boxes and keys in our cars. A gun bought for protection winding up in a criminal’s hands because of a careless owner boggles the mind.
I look forward to a future where crime isn’t a problem, but it is a reality today and has been going back to when I was a kid. Some may say what we dealt with didn’t involve shootings and murders, but that’s not the case. I grew up in the middle of the Atlanta child murders, which my mother reminded me about every time I walked out the door.
The Buckhead Council on Neighborhoods is turning its collective attention to the judges and keeping bad guys off the streets.
I say good on them.
Let’s also turn our collective attention to keeping weapons out of bad gays’ hands and making sure our doors are locked, our alarms are on and our keys aren’t left in our cars.