ATLANTA -- Some neighbors in historic South Atlanta are frustrated after they said their pleas to stop teens from terrorizing their street have gone unanswered.
The community said despite their pleas to the school district, police and city leaders, little has changed. Now 11Alive's Duffie Dixon is holding the powerful accountable.
The neighborhood is next to Carver High School and these residents said they feel helpless to what they described as “chaos.”
The week before last, Kristy Wood’s home security camera captured two cars leaving campus and one young man pulling a gun in broad daylight. It’s behavior neighbors said they’ve witnessed for well over a year.
In November, neighbors reported shots were fired at South Atlanta Park as school was letting out. In January, this surveillance video shows two young men beating up a female exchange student for her phone. Most recently, on last Monday, one image after another of groups of teens walking off campus in the middle of the day.
“I have seen the fights, I have seen a lot of the trash,” said Kimberly Bego. “I've had to run them from my neighbor's house when they decide to go on her porch and roll their blunts.”
Neighbors told 11Alive they see on anywhere from 50 to 100 students out in the street, just leaving campus and walking in the street.
“A lot of times there's pot smoking,” “Then there's also issues with guns and speeding issues, and those are also coming from the Carver campus.”
Brenda Trammell said she once had a fight that filtered over into her backyard – one in which a boy allegedly body slammed a girl.
“I can't take my grandchildren to the park," Trammell said. “(They’re) Driving their cars, dirt bikes on the side walk.”
Neighbors think many of the unruly teens are getting off campus through a gate that sits between the end of Gammon Drive and the start of the school parking lot. They told 11Alive they’ve long suggested closing the gate, making it a little harder for kids to sneak off campus.
Then, there’s the APS data itself, which shows attendance in the last couple months of the school year plummets.
“At the end of the school year…on average, 25 percent of the kids are absent, which is alarming when you look at all the other clusters within APS and everybody's 90 percent, 92 percent,” said resident Jason Timbert. “Ultimately, the safety and security of the kids is not there.”
In an email response, APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen told 11Alive "I do want to stop the truancy issue during the school day," and mentioned a plan that has been developed. But neighbors here said they haven't heard what that plan is.
The chief of police for Atlanta Public Schools met with 11Alive to detail their plan for handling truancy from a safety perspective. Chief Ronald Applin said the APS truancy department does regular sweeps of their campuses while collaborating with APD and MARTA police. Specifically at Carver High School, he said "We're paying a little bit more attention to what's going on the campus. We have four officers assigned to this campus. One officer is actually working at the gate."
From 8:00 a.m. to the end of the school day, that officer at the gate is supposed to be engaging with anyone who is entering or leaving the campus, checking their IDs to see "if they have business on campus" or to see if they have a legitimate reason to leave campus if they are students, according to Applin.
He stressed that Carver and all APS campus facilities are open to the community. "We don't restrict people coming on and off campus. We do restrict people coming into the building, but when we talk about on and off campus, anyone can access the campus."
"Some of the people who are leaving, are not students. Some of the people that come on to the property from another location and they'll leave and drive through the campus," Applin said.
Atlanta Public School's Associate Superintendent of high schools Dr. Dan Sims told 11Alive they are encouraging the students to stay at school.
"We're telling them that they need to be in school. And we're making sure that inside of our classrooms and inside the school in general that there is a continued sense of urgency every single day. The school year is not over and we need for everyone to understand that. The staff is reacting in such a way that in every classroom, in the hallways, it is as if it is the first day of school," Simms said.
He said Carver needs the community's help getting a handle on what's happening between Carver and the neighborhood. He asked for patience.
"For that small number of students that may be causing issues, it's important for the community to keep giving us information...This staff has been highly responsive in addressing those particular students and administering consequences where needed. But more so, getting into the head and the heart of those kids so we can get them to make better decisions cause that's ultimately what school is about," Simms said.
11Alive also spoke with the Executive Director of Safety for APS, who said there's now an additional officer on campus who roams outside and another who will be at that unlocked back gate all day to check the IDs of everyone coming and going.
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