Adra Tippett, owner of Cake Café Atlanta on Candler Road, said her business has been burglarized four times during the three years her business has been open.
Items stolen include cell phones, two televisions, security monitors, an edible-image printer and baking ingredients, Tippett said.
Tippett said she has combated the break-ins by installing a more secure storm door, cellular back-up for the alarm system and more security cameras.
“I’ve got a camera everywhere now,” Tippett said of her three cameras outside and five inside.
But it isn’t the thefts that annoyed her the most; it was the reaction of the police officers who responded to one of the incidents.
“I said, ‘So, are you’re going take fingerprints? What are we going to do to try to find this guy?’” Tippett recounted. “They said, ‘Nothing. This is Candler Road.’”
Tippett made the comments during a forum for business owners in the Candler Road/Flat Shoals Parkway business corridor to address crime and develop strategies to deal with criminal activity in the area.
Responding to Tippett’s comments, Capt. T. Voss, of the DeKalb County Police Department, apologized.
“If an officer told you that, it’s totally unacceptable,” Voss said. “I do apologize. No officer should ever say something like that.
“I can tell you, as far as the command staff of the police department, we don’t look at things like that,” Voss said. “South DeKalb is just as important as any place else.”
DeVon Hudson, who, during the forum realized that his business is across the street from Tippett’s, said the area “suffers from bad public relations.”
“I love south DeKalb,” Hudson said. “We can make a difference here. I’m not going anywhere.”
Hudson said his insurance agency had also been burglarized. During the burglary in which a computer was stolen, Hudson said the thieves dropped a cell phone which he gave to the police.
When Hudson followed up with the police, he said he did not get much help.
“Quite frankly he acted like I was interrupting his day,” Hudson said.
Commissioner Larry Johnson, who sponsored the forum, said the corridor is improving.
“Any crime is too much,” Johnson said. “But for our size, it’s not as bad as it was.”
Between November 2011 and Feb. 23, the Flat Shoals/Candler Road area has had 17 pedestrian robberies, seven business robberies, six residential robberies and 14 business burglaries, Voss said.
“Overall the nighttime burglaries have gone down,” Voss added.
The police department has a special team that is trying to address crime in business areas, focusing on making drug cases in hotels and apartments, Voss said.
“A lot of these crimes—these smash-and-grabs—a lot of it is based off of drugs,” Voss said.
Officers use drug arrests “to get in the door to find the bigger fish,” Voss said. “All of it is intertwined.”
“The police department wants to make arrests,” Voss said. “We want to do something about [crime]. We want to serve the community.”
According to Johnson the area has a median income of $55,000 per household—higher than the city of Decatur—and is beginning to see some revitalization.
The Candler Road area has had $25 million in investments in the past seven years, Johnson said. The corridor is also the county’s first overlay district–an area where additional planning regulations are in place for more stringent zoning.
“We’ve got some good businesses in our area,” Johnson said. “We have very few vacancies on Candler Road.”
Anthony Drummer of Drummer Imports on Flat Shoals Parkway said he has been in business for 10 years with a few minor incidents.
“Even with the bad economy, we had our best year last year,” Drummer said. “My motto is ‘we’re doing good in the ‘hood.’”
Johnson urged the business owners in the area to organize to help each other.
“You have to start a business watch program,” Johnson said. “That’s the take away we want to get from this meeting.”
Johnson reiterated his commitment to help revitalize the corridor.
“I’m not leaving,” Johnson said. “I believe in Candler Road. I don’t care what these people say.”