The Power of Strong Communities

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Very early one morning a few weeks ago, a neighborhood watch volunteer was out on patrol and spotted a suspicious individual walking up driveways, trying to look in windows and exhibiting other behaviors we typically associate with casing houses in our embattled community. When the volunteer got closer to try to get a description as he called 911, he noted the man had a pistol in his hand. The individual determined he was being observed and fled the neighborhood in the direction of an arterial road.  The local police responded almost immediately and caught up with the individual within several blocks of where he fled. 

At the time he was detained by the police, he had no handgun on his person.  The individual had priors but no outstanding warrants and, lacking probable cause to make an arrest, the police released him and tailed him out of the neighborhood.

The supposition is that he ditched the handgun between the time he fled and was detained by the police, in a pocket neighborhood of our community with an abnormally high concentration of families with small children. As news of the incident made its way around the community, concern that the handgun might be found by a small child increased and a group of community volunteers agreed to meet up and search the area that afternoon to try to recover the gun.  A wise soul reached out to the local police commander to let her know this would be happening, and the local police commander scrambled six officers (who were not currently on patrol duty) to come join us and help search as well as to preseve foresnsic evidence and chain of custody in case the gun was found.

Nearly a dozen neighbors and six police officers invested several hours searching the neighborhood, working together towards a common goal of removing a potential hazard to the children of the neighborhood.

Unfortunately, we didn’t find the gun. We covered all the public property in the neighborhood and a bunch of front and back yards where the owners were home and would let us search (nobody refused, but some weren’t home). We also asked those who were home to warn their neighbors that there might be a gun stashed in the area and to search their yards carefully. Best guess is that the gun was tossed into a wooded area from a bridge on the periphery of the neighborhood near where the suspect was detained. Not the best outcome, but better than it might have been.

Take a moment to reflect on this incident and more, importantly, the community’s response: 

  • A member of a volunteer community watch sacrificed part of his or her day to be a visual deterrent to crime and to be eyes and ears for the police department in the interest of making their community safer.
  • Upon spotting a risk to the safety of the community, that person was able to quickly and effectively notify the police and the broader community.
  • When another member of that volunteer community watch reported that a handgun had been “tossed” by a suspicious person, the community immediately mobilized to address this risk — even those that didn’t live anywhere nearby.
  • Another community member with ties to the police force contacted a high-ranking officer to request guidance and assistance from the police, and the police responded.
  • Concerned citizens and the police worked side by side to address this risk to the community.

That the gun was not found was unfortunate, but our community became a little bit stronger and a little bit safer for the experience.

I think this exemplifies the concept that “Strong Communities Are Safe Communities”.

For more information on how to make your community stronger and safer, please visit S.A.F.E. Atlanta For Everyone (


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