EAST POINT, Ga. — East Point Police are investigating a dispute that turned into a shooting involving four people Tuesday. It happened on Cleveland Avenue at a shopping center that includes a nail salon, a beauty supply store, American Deli, and other stores.
Hours later, police set up shop less than three miles away for their National Night Out event. During the event, they aimed to bridge the gap between law enforcement and community members.
East Point Police Chief Shawn Buchanan has been leading the department for nearly eight months.
"I enjoy being chief and working with the citizens," he said. "I want to make this a much better agency. One of my main goals is to be CALEA certified, which is a national accreditation. I can’t wait to reach that goal."
Buchanan believes that events like this one, and the immediate hiring of new officers, are critical to helping drive crime in the city down.
"We have a lot of initiatives we set forth – our number one is to reduce crime, number two is to increase employment of our personnel," he said. "Our goal is to have a safe city – that’s our number one goal."
He adds that he wants to hire about 40 new officers for his department to be fully staffed. That number would also allow them to have extra officers in case of emergencies.
“The pandemic hurt us a little bit but we’re really picking up our staffing now. I just can’t wait to have a fully staffed police department," he said. "It’s up and down – sometimes we’re doing a great job and other times we have a lot of domestic situations that have occurred and increase our crime."
According to the police department’s site, in 2021, East Point had a total of 8 homicides. This year so far, that number is already at 13 with four more months to go.
"It is critical for the survival of a city to have a good relationship with the police and the police have a good relationship with the public," he said. "We could not do it without the community."
While the number of homicides has nearly doubled, the number of total crimes in the city is on track to be lower than last year.
East Point councilmember, Stephanie Gordon, said events like this one have proven to her that crime can go down.
“I think that crime reduction is something we see happening the more that our police agency is involved with the community," she said. "It’s vitally important to have our police out in an environment like this because it’s a great opportunity for our police officers, in a climate where so much tension is occurring, it’s a great opportunity to ease those tensions, ease those fears, and make sure our community has a great rapport with police."
Community member Lydia Woltz, who was there with her 7-year-old son Peter, agrees. They want more opportunities like this one for their families.
"This is a chance for the kids to understand that the police are there to help, they can see the police in a friendly manner. It’s been great. [Peter's] walked up and talked to the police and got some free food. It’s wonderful," she said.
Woltz's son, Peter, was able to enjoy the bounce castle at the event and one of the free backpacks given to the first 300 kids attending. Children were also able to take advantage of face paint, and there was also free food for families.
Buchanan said they will be hosting a hiring event on Sept. 9. On their website, the salary for uncertified police officers starts at $52,000, while certified police officer salaries start at $55,000. They also have educational pay incentives.
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