Refugees and immigrants living in Clarkston are considered easy prey by criminals, said the city’s police chief during a recent meeting about crime prevention.
“All of our violent crimes that we’ve dealt with in the past five years have been [by people] from southwest and southeast Atlanta,” said Clarkston Police Chief Tony Scipio to a group of apartment managers, refugees and community leaders who want to reduce the crimes against refugees and immigrants.
“What we’re finding out from interviewing these suspects and perpetrators is that all eyes are on Clarkston because of the large influx of refugees and immigrants,” Scipio said. “They are easily preyed [upon].”
Scipio said that 69 percent of the crimes within the city limits are committed by nonresidents, many of whom live in the city of Atlanta.
Many criminals “plan their crime; they look at the area, they watch what you do every day,” Scipio said. “If you are not aware of your surroundings and your environment, and if you are not taking the necessary precautions, then eventually you’re going to become a victim, especially late at night.”
Scipio said many of the victims in Clarkston during the past three months were out late at night, small in stature and carrying large sums of money.
Scipio’s comments were part of a meeting during which Clarkston community leaders met with Clarkston and DeKalb law enforcement officials to discuss crime prevention in the city.
“Each of you represents a key piece in trying to solve the crime and safety issues that we’re all facing,” Susan Pavlin, director of policy for Refugee Family Services, told the group.
Officer K.C. Payton said that when residents do not care about their communities, “criminals will recognize that and they will move in and set up shop.”
“If you see any litterers, call 911,” Payton said. “If you see anybody that doesn’t belong in the community, call 911. If you have abandoned houses or abandoned cars, call code enforcement.”
Payton said criminals use tall hedges around houses to their advantage.
“Criminals can conceal themselves and actually work on your doors and go inside and go shopping, come out and nobody’s seen anything,” Payton said. “Don’t give a way for criminals to conceal themselves and thrive in your communities.”
Tonaya Moss, a public education specialist with the DeKalb Police Department, said communication is a key to preventing crimes.
“Communicate with the police,” Moss said. “If they don’t know what’s going on in your community they’re not going to show up. The communication starts with the residents.”
Because most neighborhoods do not have police officers living in them, residents must take on the responsibility of monitoring their own communities, Moss said.
“The residents see the incidents first,” Moss said. “They hear it. They see it. But the next step is to call 911.”
October is Crime Prevention Month in DeKalb County and Moss encouraged the group to set up neighborhood watch programs.
“You need a team of people to be nosy neighbors with you,” Moss said. “We know there’s crime. Without your help it’s not going away.”