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November 7, 2014

Decatur Police Department releases first quarter data of police-initiated stops

New tool will enhance department’s existing data tracking efforts

Decatur, Ga. ­– Today the Decatur Police Department released its first data since it began tracking the demographics of persons stopped by the police on Aug. 1. The first ever quarterly report shows that the racial make-up of those involved in police-initiated stops mirrors the racial make-up of Decatur, DeKalb County and the City of Atlanta, which shares a border with Decatur. Quarterly reports will be released and posted to www.decaturpolice.com going forward.

“It is still very early, but the police department’s tracking of demographic data of persons stopped by the police, whether on foot, bicycle or in a motor vehicle, seems to be working well,” said Decatur Mayor Jim Baskett. “The City Commission believes this and all the data collected by the Decatur Police Department are key to ensuring our city’s police department remains the responsible team of dedicated professionals that Decatur expects and deserves.”

In addition to recording the race of individuals stopped by the police, the Decatur Police Department tracks citizen complaints, use of force by officers and police pursuits of suspects. This week, all Decatur Police officers and the city’s management team completed a diversity program led by trainers from the Anti-Defamation League’s A World of Difference Institute (ADL.org).

“Our detailed focus on data, analytics and training is part of the Decatur Police Department’s commitment to enforcing a higher standard in law enforcement,” said Decatur Police Chief Mike Booker. “In the past two years, we have taken steps to ensure we are best serving the needs of everyone in Decatur. This includes buying new body cameras for officers to supplement the dashboard cameras already in use on police vehicles and creating the position of Community Information and Education Officer (currently held by Sgt. Jennifer Ross) to facilitate the flow of information to the community and coordinate free crime prevention classes, including the R.A.D. self-defense course for women.”

In October, the Decatur City Commission approved a proposed timeline and budget for Phase I of a process to create a Community Action Plan for a Compassionate Decatur. In order to draw on the experiences and knowledge of the community, the city’s efforts are intended to be comprehensive, intentional and take a holistic approach to developing a community action plan that appreciates diversity and supports a community of inclusion and compassion based on justice and equity.

“Principle B: Encourage a Diverse and Engaged Community is one of the four core principles in the city’s 2010 Strategic Plan,” said Decatur City Manager Peggy Merriss. “Over the next year, we will work to develop a Community Action Plan that reflects the community’s wants and needs, with many opportunities for input and discussion.”

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February 11, 2014

There is a lot of safety and preparation tips coming at you right now but I received this great bullet point style list of tips addressing driving, survival kits and power outages from the Atlanta Police Foundation and wanted to share it with our Decatur Community.  We have city staff and volunteers checking on seniors and vulnerable adults in the community and ask that you continue to check on your neighbors. 

***If you or a neighbor are dealing with special medical issues, are on oxygen or have medical equipment that depends on electricity such as wheelchairs or ventilators, please contact Sgt. Jennifer Ross at 678/553-6613 or jennifer.ross@decaturga.com so police and fire personnel are aware and can conduct welfare checks.

Driving in Icy Conditions

We encourage everyone to stay off the roads during the storm. However, if you must drive:

- Decrease your speed and leave three times the normal amount of space between you and cars ahead of you.

- Brake gently to avoid skidding. If you wheels lock up, ease off the brakes.

- Keep your headlights ON!

- Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.

- Don't use cruise control or overdrive.

If your front wheels skid:

- Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don't try to steer immediately.

- As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and regain traction. As it does, gently steer in the direction you want to go.

If your rear wheels skid:

- Take your foot off the accelerator.

- Steer gently in the direction you want your front wheels to go.

- If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You may have to steer left and right again several times to get your vehicle under control.

- If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.

- If you have anti-lock brakes, do not pump the brakes. Push down steadily, and you will feel a gentle pulsing. (This is normal).

Create a "Winter Survival kit"

- Foods that do not require cooking or refrigeration, like bread, cereal, dried fruits and nuts - and baby food if you have young children.

- 5 gallons per person of clean water, in case your pipes freeze or burst.

- Necessary medications and a small cooler if they require refrigeration.

- First aid kit.

- Battery powered flashlights or lanterns.

- Blankets

- Non-electric can opener

- Snow shovel

- Rock salt or kitty litter.

What to do if your power goes out

- Don't go near downed power lines.

- NEVER try to pull branches or other debris off a power line.

- Don't touch anything a power line is touching.

- Don't leave your candles unattended.

- Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors shut - they can keep food cold for up to 24 hours.

- Throw away food that has been above 40 degrees for more than 2 hours, or that has an unusual color, odor or texture.

- Turn off appliances that were running when the power went off - you don't want the stove to be on all night in case your power returns.

- Unplug electronics like TVs and computers, so that returning power does not damage them.

January 6, 1014

Check On Seniors In Your Neighborhood

This is not a warning to the community that it is cold outside, we are all quite aware. This is a request for everyone to pitch in as a community and offer something that is free, a few minutes of your time. Many of us prep for cold weather by stocking the kitchen, picking up a space heater, throwing more blankets on the bed and tending to our plants and animals. However, it is not easy for every member of our community to prepare for or endure extremely cold weather. Please take a few minutes to check on the seniors in your neighborhood. See if you can bring in their mail or wood or something else they may need. Sometimes simply being checked on is greatly appreciated when staying indoors gets to be lonely. Lastly, a neighbor may need emergency assistance and unable to call for themselves. If you are caring for an elder loved one or simply watching out for seniors in your neighborhood, click here for some specific tips to help.

 January 2, 2014

FREE Self-Protection Workshop January 8, 2014 6-8pm at The Decatur Recreation Center

“Learn from a trained professional whose delivery style is nonstop, relevant and entertaining. He delivers the common sense approach to the unwelcome encounter! Become aware – identify the situation and plan how to remove yourself [escape] using readily available distraction tools.” - Beryl B. Farris, Immigration Attorney 

The Decatur Police Department will be hosting a “Self-Protection Workshop” on
Wednesday, January 8, 2014 from 6-8pm

At The Decatur Recreation Center (231 Sycamore Street, Decatur, GA 30030)
***Teens (13-17) are welcome to attend this workshop with a parent/guardian. 

This workshop is designed to teach you how to be proactive, maintain awareness and be decisive during a violent confrontation. In the workshop, the presenter will be covering: 
    Behavioral Profiling - Situational Awareness - Personal Security vs. Self-Defense 
    Mindset - Conditions of Readiness - Warning & Danger Signs of an Attack 
    Simple & Effective Self-Defense Techniques - Improvised weapons

The presenter of the workshop, Steven Mosley, has over two decades of law enforcement work experience and currently works locally for the Department of Homeland Security. Steven is also the Director of Training for the Combat Hard Training Center in Jonesboro.

“When I was looking for someone to help my wife and I with dealing with some of the challenges that come up in our work in the course of our ministry with people who are sometimes unpredictable and violent and dealing with dicey situations in general I was pretty thorough in my vetting process because I was looking for someone who would give us a better chance of living through the real situations we face. We need something that works. I asked SWAT officers that I know from various police departments, veteran officers, GBI officers, and state troopers. Steven's name kept coming up, I called him, and found both a solid teacher, mentor, and friend. I can't recommend him highly enough.” – Nathan Dean, Co-Pastor, Edgewood Church

The “Self-Protection Workshop” is a lecture presentation and NOT a physical self-defense class. Informational flyers on self-defense classes through the Combat Hard Training Center will be available after the workshop.

To RSVP for the seminar, please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VXVH6YJ OR contact Sgt. Jennifer Ross at 678-553-6613 or jennifer.ross@decaturga.com.  

December 31, 2013

 Holiday Safety Tips Series - Week 8

This is the last post in the Holiday Safety Tips Series for 2013 and we hope you have gained new and useful information or maybe just a refresher. While the last seven weeks of tips have been geared toward the holidays, they are useful throughout the year. Let’s close by having a fun and safe New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Eve is a time of celebration, reflection and, for many of us, the eve of a fresh start for a new year with plans to meet goals that have been weighing on us. The very last thing you want weighing down on you in the new year is a court date or even worse, being responsible for hurting someone. Celebrations should be enjoyable, not reckless abandon that results in you having no memory of the “fun” or living with a nightmare that you cannot forget. Remember to make safety a habit and not a headache!

Happy & Safe New Year!

- Don’t drink and drive! It is not worth it. It is not worth your life, someone else’s life, being arrested, crashing your car, having your car impounded, going to court, paying for an attorney, probation, fines or having your driver’s license suspended.
- Pace yourself when drinking and know your limits. Where is the fun in being so intoxicated you don’t remember how you ended up in jail, how you ended up in the hospital or where you have been or what happened to you?
- Find a safe way home or stay where you are at. Just because you planned on walking does not make it safe if you are impaired. Falling down in the street is unsafe and criminals will target you as easy prey.
- Alcohol is not the only substance that impairs you. Using marijuana, other controlled illegal substances or certain prescribed medications and driving is also dangerous and leads to all of the very same things listed in tip #1.
- Don’t take a drink, a ride or anything else from someone you do not know or trust.
- Go out with friends and look out for each other.
- What goes up must come down to include bullets. Shooting a gun into the air for celebratory purposes is dangerous and illegal.
- Combustible or explosive fireworks are prohibited in Decatur. Here is the link to the city ordinance if you want to check on specific items http://library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientId=12110&stateId=10&stateName=Georgia
- Know where your teens are. Check to make sure they are where they are supposed to be. Share these safety tips with them - even as they roll their eyes at you.

December 24, 2013

Holiday Safety Tips Series - Week 7

This week’s topic in the Holiday Safety Tips Series addresses some of the miscellaneous things we wished we had thought about before something happened to our stuff. For many of us, all of the planning, preparation, shopping, decorating, travel and stress has led up to these next few days and now we can let out a sigh of relief that everything has been handled and we can relax and enjoy ourselves. So of course it’s time for me to give you a few last minute things to worry about. I can honestly say that I never thought about things like recording serial numbers before I became a police officer. As busy as we all are, it can be a pain to take the time to document things the way we really should. However, once you get the base list started, it is easy to add to it as you obtain new items. It can help police locate something that is lost or stolen and makes things easier on you if an insurance claim needs to be filed. So here are a few more tips for added holiday peace of mind. Happy Holidays and remember to make safety a habit and not a headache!

Miscellaneous Stocking Stuffers in red and green

- Record the serial numbers of anything you own that has them. Best practice is to record the brand, model number and serial number by keeping the packaging, snapping a photo of the information on the packaging or item itself or handwriting the information in a notebook. *Don’t let the only copy of your list be on a computer that may be stolen! This can be a great project for older kids if you make it a scavenger hunt.
- Engrave your name, initials or some type of identifying information on property that does not have serial numbers such as tools, lawn care items and sports equipment. These types of items are stolen and sold to pawn shops and consignment/secondhand stores.
- Download “locate applications” to new smart phones, computers and any electronic items that offer the feature as soon as possible.
- Break down the boxes for your new big ticket items and take them to a recycling location rather than setting them out at the curb. Would-be thieves have been known to drive around “shopping” the holiday trash to see what your home has to offer.
- Review and use all of the same safety precautions during the post-Christmas shopping rush that you have used over the last few weeks. The holiday shopping season is not yet over and while this series of safety tips has been for the holidays, they are good year around.

December 17, 2013

Holiday Safety Tips Series - Week 6

The holiday season can be more of a time of stress than celebration if we let it. This time of year can simply be overwhelming with demands and obligations rather than being a time of cheer or peace. When we are immersed in shopping, cooking, cleaning, traveling, houseguests, family reunions, office parties and worrying about finances, it is easy to become less than cheerful and not enjoy the holidays. It can also be a time of loneliness and depression when we remember loved ones who are no longer with us. I lost my dad to cancer in 2000 and his birthday is two days before Christmas. I spent many years trying to stay busy enough to forget how much I still miss him, especially around the holidays. That strategy only works for so long before you feel even worse. I now choose to cherish rather than ignore the memories as they come. While this week’s topic may not seem like a traditional “safety topic” to be covered by law enforcement, I decided to include it because stress, tension, loneliness and depression can and do unfortunately result in situations that require a police response. Sometimes “making safety a habit and not a headache” can mean managing your stress so you too can experience a little more comfort and joy.

Holiday Blues

Sad pup wearing Christmas hat

- Be reasonable with your schedule and do not overbook yourself into a state of exhaustion. It can make you grouchy and stressed out and where is the cheer in that?
- Plan ahead so you are not overwhelmed but relax and go with the flow when things don’t necessarily work out as planned.
- Give yourself the gift of some “me time”. It can be exercise, meditation, massage, reading or a good nap. Take time out to do what makes you feel better and reduces your stress.
- If you are feeling lonely or isolated, reach out for support and companionship. Check out community, spiritual and social events or volunteer your time. You can lift your spirits helping others while building new relationships along the way.
- If you find yourself overcome with feelings of sadness, anxiety or depression, seek professional help. Reach out to your doctor, a counselor or a crisis hotline. If you need emergency assistance, please call 911.

December 10, 2013

Holiday Safety Tips Series - Week 5

To burglars, the holiday season in particular, means that your home generally has more things to steal. Not a very joyful thought, but an unfortunate reality. You can choose to be paranoid and add to the stress of the holiday season or take the time to throw up a few more roadblocks to annoy or discourage potential burglars and then relax and enjoy yourself. I found my dad to be the hardest person to buy for when I reached the age to actually go pick out gifts myself. I wish there had been home improvement store gift cards, light timers, motion sensor lights, higher end deadbolts, window pegs and recommendations to change out 6” screws for the standard 2” screws in lock strike plates and door hinges back in the day because it would have provided great gift options for my paranoid dad who also liked projects around the house. So maybe you can give the gift of safety to someone in your home or just take care of a few things yourself and celebrate the holidays with a little more peace of mind. Here are a few tips to think about concerning YOUR home for the holidays. Remember to make safety a habit and not a headache!

“YOUR” Home For The Holidays

- Burglars do not want to spend more than a few minutes breaking into your home so lock all outside doors and windows before you leave the house or go to bed. Even if it is for a short period of time, secure your home. USE THE DEADBOLT LOCKS, NOT JUST THE DOORKNOB LOCKS. Doorknob locks are easy to bypass.
- Fortify your home by installing heavy duty locks, longer screws in the lock strike plates and door hinges, and install secondary security devices on all accessible sliding windows. This makes it harder to force in a door and requires a burglar spend more time making noise or looking for an alternate way in.
- Trim back bushes and trees that provide burglars with concealment and keep police and neighbors from seeing someone lurking on your property.
- If you have a burglar alarm, use it every time you leave your home, even if just for a few minutes.
- Make your home look occupied when you are not there. Burglars do not like light. Use motion sensor lights on the exterior and light timers on the interior. If you are headed out of town, ask a neighbor to park one of their cars in your driveway. Submit an “Out of Town House Check” here .

December 3, 2013

Holiday Safety Tips Series - Week 4

The next topic in our Holiday Safety Series covers tips for online shopping. Most of us are already busier than we should be without adding holiday shopping to the endless list of things we need “to-do”. I don’t like considering holiday shopping a chore because that diminishes the very purpose of why I am shopping in the first place. I try to make most of my holiday shopping a chance to spend time with friends, grab a bite, catch up and take care of our shopping lists. However, I usually end up online trying to find a certain item, like the Spiderman shoes with illuminated eyes that arrived today for my 4-year-old Godson, and I know the risks. I have been the victim of identity fraud twice in six years but the convenience of online shopping outweighs any paranoia I may have. It is simply a way of life for many of us so just follow a few tips to try to reduce your risk.

“Fraud is NOT Festive”

Online Shopping 

- Before surfing the Internet, secure your personal computers by updating your security software. Everyone’s computer should have anti-virus, anti-spyware, and anti-spam software, as well as a good firewall installed.
- Use secure websites for purchases. Look for the icon of a locked padlock at the bottom of the screen or “https” in the URL address.
- Shop with companies you know and trust. Check for background information if you plan to buy from a new or unfamiliar company.
- Do not click on pop-up ads for surveys, prize offers or anti-virus alerts. This is a common way for your personal information to be grabbed or your computer to be infected.
- After you have made your purchase, check your billing statements to monitor transactions: Immediately report any discrepancy to your bank 


 November 26, 2013

Holiday Safety Tips Series - Week 3

The next topic in our Holiday Safety Series addresses driving to your destination whether it be across town for a dinner party or a much longer journey to spend time with your loved ones. My childhood holiday travel memories are of 2-5 hours (depending on which set of grandparents we were going to see) in the back of a car, that I swear had no seatbelts, while engaged in sibling warfare over the true center line of the backseat and who was in violation. Looking back, I do not know how my parents safely made it anywhere with my brother and I in tow. I recall thinking my father’s preparation ritual for holiday road trips was overly dramatic as it seemed like we were mobilizing for a road trip to Alaska instead of south Georgia or North Carolina. I now understand that this was his way to keep his family safe and reduce the stress that comes with holiday travel so we could all enjoy ourselves. Always following some basic safety tips whether driving short or long distances, investing a little bit of time to prepare for an emergency and being patient will get you where you are going safely and in better spirits. Remember to make safety a habit and not a headache!

“Dashing through the snow…safely"

Driving in Snow 

- Before you start your trip, make sure your vehicle is tuned up and in good shape for travel, especially your tires (don’t forget the spare). This is even more important for winter driving conditions. If you are weary of your vehicle’s current condition and think it needs some work, rent a vehicle for a road trip. You will be safer, less stressed and it can be a treat to have a newer, different or larger vehicle for travel.
- Wear your seatbelt and make sure all of your passengers are wearing their seatbelt or secured in a car seat or booster seat appropriate for their size. Unrestrained passengers are more likely to be injured and become a projectile to other passengers in a crash.
- Keep your speed down. Give yourself plenty of time and distance to react to the traffic around you. Let impatient and aggressive drivers pass you or go ahead of you so that you control the situation.
- If there will be drinking at your holiday get-together, choose a designated driver who will remain alcohol free, grab a cab or stay where you are.
- Make sure you have a roadside emergency kit, you can buy a fancy one already put together or create your own. Basic items for your kit: jumper cables, flares, extra fuses, flashlight w/extra batteries, first aid kit, tire inflator (such as a Fix-A-Flat), tire pressure gauge, basic tools (flat & Phillips head screwdriver, pliers, adjustable wrench), duct tape, blanket, bottled water and energy bars. Make sure your cell phone is charged and that you bring your charger for the trip.
- Be patient and stay fresh & alert when driving. Your trip will be safer and more enjoyable if you are not in a rush and not exhausted before you even get started. Whomever you are going to visit would rather you arrive a little later than for you to be in a crash.

November 19, 2013

Holiday Safety Tips Series - Week 2

The next topic in our Holiday Safety Series addresses the predicament we find ourselves in after we have made the purchases, getting back to the car and taking everything home. Even after visiting all of the great shops in Decatur as I try to make some headway on the list while shopping local, I somehow always end up having to go to the mall or big box store at some point. The parking lots are a mess and I often end up looking for my car and worrying about the things I have purchased getting stolen when I “make that last stop” on the way home. Whether you have driven to the mall or the Decatur Square, having goods in the car can make you an attractive target because as you drive around seeking to buy what you are looking for, criminals drive around looking to take what you have already purchased. Don’t let a would-be thief ruin your holiday cheer so easily. Thieves are looking for quick and easy, so throw up a few more roadblocks. Remember to make safety a habit and not a headache!

Taking Your “Sleigh” Shopping

- Park your car in a well-lit area and keep track of where it's parked. This will get you in your car and on your way faster.

- Park in well-trafficked areas and avoid secluded and dark areas, as confrontations won’t be seen and yells for help won’t be heard.

- Hide packages from view to prevent a break-in. Lock them in the trunk or, if possible, take them directly home or ask for them to be delivered.

- If you return to your vehicle to unload shopping bags, move your vehicle to another space.

- When placing electronic items in your car out of view such as iPods, cell phones and GPS systems, remember to also put chargers, cords and cradles out of view since would-be thieves look for these items as signs that what they are looking for may be in your car.

 November 12, 2013

Holiday Safety Tips Series - Week 1

It is customary for every police department to provide a reminder of safety tips for the holiday season as criminals unfortunately take advantage of us being distracted by our merriment and also have more opportunities to steal because of all of the new goods we are buying, making, giving, receiving and transporting. The holidays are also a time for more parties & gatherings, more travel & traffic and more pressure to get a million things done which can be stressful and undermine the very spirit of the season. Instead of blasting you with a one-time long list of warnings and “do-nots” the week of Thanksgiving, we are going to send out weekly tips, by topic, so you will have a chance to digest the information. Most of us know the basics but we can all use reminders as we get caught up in the hustle and bustle. We want everyone to have an enjoyable and safe holiday season through awareness rather than paranoia. Make safety a habit and not a headache. If there is a specific topic you would like to see covered, please contact Sgt. Jennifer Ross at 678/553-6613 or jennifer.ross@decaturga.com

Personal Safety While Shopping

- Be alert and aware! It’s easy to be distracted by the crowds, selecting the right gift, being preoccupied with holiday activities.

- Keep shopping bags, valuables, purses, and wallets close to you. Keep purses or bags closed.

- Avoid overloading yourself with packages. It is important to have clear visibility and freedom of motion.

- Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason and watch out for friendly strangers. They may ask a question or offer to assist you with your bags to distract you or put you in a compromising situation. At this time of year, "con-artists" may try various methods of distracting you with the intention of taking your money or belongings.

- Stay alert while you are walking to your car. Talking or texting on your phone or digging in your purse for your keys while walking is a distraction and makes you an easy target.

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Last updated: 11/7/2014 8:49:50 AM