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Police say adding these facilities could help make Gainesville safer
Gainesville Police Car.jpg

As the city’s population continues to grow and traffic become more congested, Gainesville Police and city officials have assessed the possibility of spreading to two sub-stations from its Queen City Parkway headquarters.

City Manager Bryan Lackey said the city has worked with a consultant and published the 2019 update to the Capital Improvements Element plan.

In terms of functional population — people who live and work here — the city is expected to increase from 93,061 in 2019 to 120,824 in 2039.

“In terms of police, what Chief (Carol) Martin has sort of talked about with the consultant is that as we grow and get more congested, having one central facility may not be the best way to go,” Lackey said.

Though Lackey and police officials say the report is highly conceptual, it does list the potential of creating two patrol offices in the Ga. 53/Dawsonville Highway area and the New Holland area. These facilities could be co-located with new fire stations.

The city collects impact fees from developers of new projects that can be used for new growth. Lackey said these two corridors are growing and are expected to continue growing.

“There’s so much in (the report) that we won’t collect enough in 10 years anyway to fund all those projects. Just being on the list makes it eligible for when we start looking at a year’s capital projects for the next year,” Lackey said.

Deputy Chief Jay Parrish, who was named last week as Martin’s successor, said he envisioned having the two patrol offices equipped for the same services available at the city’s headquarters.

That would include people being able to meet with police officers, picking up reports and the processing of background checks.

“One of the main objectives if we did this would be to cut down on response times by having officers that are dedicated to work out of those precincts, and that would be the main area that they would respond from,” Parrish said.

In 1990, the city made big moves in its community-oriented policing project by opening precincts in the Gainesville housing projects at Atlanta Street, Harrison Square and Melrose.

Retired Capt. Chad White said the project reduced crime in those areas and helped build community relationships.

“Not only did it allow for us to have more visibility in that community (but it) cut down our response time for calls for service,” White said.

Later on, the city would also open up precincts in Lakeshore Mall as well as the Shallowford Road Target. Eventually those would be shuttered, and former Chief Brian Kelly ended the housing project precincts in 2010.

Retired Chief Frank Hooper, who preceded Kelly and retired in 2009, said the precincts were highly effective.

“In the ‘80s, early ‘90s for some of those areas, the residents were almost held hostage in their own homes, because there was a lot of drug use and things like that in the street … They put in those precincts in there (and it) really developed a partnership between us and the residents, and the community kind of helped curtail that,” he said.

Hooper, White, Parrish and Martin were unsure of the reason why the housing project precincts were shut down.

Addressing the improvements plan last week, Parrish said the goal for the patrol offices are “not even close” to the same thing as the former precincts.

“Those spaces were more of offices for officers to go to. Our vision for the (Capital Improvements Element plan) is real police precincts. It would be a place that would be staffed by police personnel, both sworn and civilian. Every service that’s offered in (the Queen City Parkway) building would be offered at those buildings, if it comes to fruition. And that’s only if we continue to grow at the rate we’re growing and the expected growth within the (Capital Improvements Element) report,” he said.

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