VaHi Safety Team Report: June 5, 2013

By: John Wolfinger

Score One For Off-Duty VaHi APD Officers!!

The following report was posted on many of our neighborhood message boards, but since this report reaches many who are not members of these boards – I felt it was well worth repeating.  This is the narrative from the Zone 6 report with my comments in parentheses:

“On May 23, 2013, at 0007 hours (7 minutes after midnight in civilian time) Officer Gilstrap, unit 1601 responded to 1026 North Highland Avenue (in front of Fontaine’s Oyster House) on a robbery call.  Upon arrival he met with the listed victim (a suburban w/f) who related she was robbed by a Hispanic male on Los Angeles Avenue (this was west of North Highland Avenue) while sitting in her vehicle.  The male approached her and asked for change.  She went to reach for change, the male produced a knife and held her at knifepoint. the victim resisted and was able to speed away.  She flagged down Officer J. Sutton who was working an extra job at 1026 North Highland Ave.  While reporting the incident to Officer Sutton she noticed the suspect who had robbed her walking southbound on North Highland Ave across the street from their location.  Officer J. Sutton and Detective W. Skeens (our FBAC officer) who was also working a nearby extra job apprehended the suspect later identified as Elmer Serrano, H/M, born 6-15-1970.  The victim sustained a laceration to her face during the incident.  Grady EMS responded and treated the victim for her minor injury.”

This incident really points out the importance of having off-duty police personnel in the neighborhood to supplement our on-duty Beat 601 officers. Thanx to Fontaines’s and FBAC for having these officers available to assist in this arrest.

Serrano had been in the area during the evening as he was sighted begging for change on North Highland earlier this date, stating to one witness that he was from Guatemala.  In addition to three charges he got from the robbery attempt -he has also been charged with two counts from the Federal immigration folks. He may be deported before the armed robbery charges come up in Fulton County court. Stay tuned for more word as I hear from the DA’s office about this.

New Fulton County Jail Program

A new shelter dog program ( ) at our Rice Street jail joins existing programs instituted by Sheriff Ted Jackson to give inmates skills and life lessons to provide them with alternatives to a life of crime after release, such as the culinary arts program, floor tech certification, and GED classes.  The more guys that are released with some education and skills, other than the fastest way to hot-wire a car, the safer we can all be.

Positive News From Nearby

I attended the combined Old 4th Ward neighborhoods meeting earlier this week to see a presentation from Wingate Properties, the owner/manager of the Bedford Pine community concerning a proposed new senior citizens residence as part of their holdings. The question and answer period though had several 4th Ward citizens questioning security at their existing buildings. A further meeting was proposed to deal with safety measures at Bedford Pine.

The area around PDL Avenue @ Boulevard is being enhanced by Fidelity Bank finally beginning work to open a new office in the abandoned bank building, the erection of the Dunkin Donuts to replace the seamy check cashing facility and the Zaxby’s to replace the abandoned KFC building.  Hopefully these new businesses will be diligent in patrolling their areas and keeping illicit and illegal activity away from this troubled and very visible corner.

Door to Door Solicitors

The neighborhood message boards have all been reporting the seasonal crop of young door to door solicitors wanting money for a myriad of reasons – all of which I am sure are scams. Hopefully you have a way to see who is knocking at your door without having to open the door and you can tell them thru the door to leave. I certainly hope no one is “buying” magazines from them – if they are not successful here they will go to new territory. I also saw that some are using the ruse of stating they want to “practice their public speaking” – and hope that no one falls for this either.  As to whether these people are casing houses for possible future visits is anyone’s guess – just don’t give them the opportunity to see inside your home. A “No Soliciting” sign at your front door is not a bad idea either and may deter some from knocking. If you have a gut feeling from the ones that are threatening and rudely persistent – don’t hesitiate to call 911 with a good report of their physical description and which way they were headed after leaving your home.

Orme Park Events

The Friends of Orme Park are having a work day session on Saturday morning 6/8 from 9 to 11 and are asking you to bring your shovels and work gloves. Water, coffee and donuts provided. Then, on Sunday 6/9 they are hosting a potluck dinner from 5 to 7 in this beautiful neighborhood park.  If you are a user of this park by taking your kids to the playground or taking your dog for a good walk on the paths thru this forested park – you are the person that should be at the work session Saturday morning. We have the amenities at this park courtesy of dedicated and hard-working neighborhood volunteers and they deserve your support for a couple of hours.

The following reports are gleaned from our APD Zone 6 ( crime stats for the 2013 weeks of 19 and 20 (5/5 to 5/18) for our VaHi Beat 601, along with news from around the Zone as it affects us.  Again, I state that these reports are not meant to scare anyone, but to make you aware of what happens around us everyday, and to raise your alertness.

Aggravated Assault – No reported incidents from Beat 601

Auto Theft – Kentucky Avenue was hit on 5/16 with the thefts of a 1999 Plymouth and a 1999 Dodge.  No – they are not always after taking a new Mercedes, these older vehicles are easier to steal and are less noticeable for driving around and easier to sell to the illicit scrap dealers.

Commercial Burglary – The Dozier Hair Studio on Barnett Street was entered via a pried open front door.

Residential Burglary – There was an attempt at entering on Rosedale Road – but the residents heard noise on the front porch and scared the suspect off.  A Virginia Avenue home was entered via an unlocked window, and a PDL Avenue address was entered via a pried open door (not sure from the report as to whether this was a residence or a garage or shed).

Commercial Robbery – No reported incidents from Beat 601

Residential Robbery – No reported incidents from Beat 601

Pedestrian Robbery – On 5/6 a Greenwood Avenue resident (900 block) returning to his apartment in the early morning hours was approached by suspect # 1 asking him if he had a phone (the answer was no), then suspect #2 came from behind choking the victim taking a phone from his pocket as well as his briefcase with both suspects fleeing on foot.  This was all by physical force – no weapon shown.  The well publicized incident of a BeltLine jogger who was held up at gunpoint and lost her cell phone occured on 5/7.  And on 5/8 a female homeless victim who was asleep in the MARTA shelter in front of the library on PDL Avenue had her face pushed to the ground and her purse was stolen from between her legs.  This was a sick act and hope that this perp gets his/her just rewards sometime someplace.  If you are like me, I have always wondered as to why our neighborhood homeless advocates have not gotten this person the help she obviously needs and gotten her off the street.

Also – all around the Zone, Apple pickings continue from unaware and unalert phone owners/users.  It still always amazes me that we do not have a lot of these such incidents here in VaHi with all of the folks who walk or jog around with cell phones in hand as if they are worried they may miss a call or text.

Larceny From Vehicle – Vehicles were entered on Maiden Lane, Rosedale Road, Virginia Avenue, PDL Avenue, Elkmont Drive, St. Charles Avenue, Los Angeles Avenue, and North Highland Avenue.

Larceny Other – No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Nearby though, the PDL Avenue Kroger and Publix stores caught 3 shoplifters – the Edgewood Retail District Target store caught 3 non-paying visitors and the Piedmont@ North Avenues Publix and Walgreens also caught 3 shoplifters.  Of all of these shoplifters that are caught, I always wonder as to how many are not caught – don’t you too?

Summerfest Suggestions?

Now that yet another successful Summerfest is behind us, if you have suggestions for making the festival even better next year, send an e-mail to and copy John Becker at

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