The Atlanta Police Department anticipates it will have its Path Force fully staffed and ready to begin patrols of the Atlanta BeltLine in the first or second quarter of next year.
Speaking to a meeting of Neighborhood Planning Unit-M this week, Deputy Chief Ernest N. Finley Jr. said APD is currently looking to fill the 15 slots.
The unit is being formed via a three-year $1.87 million federal Community Oriented Policing Services grant, which also calls for the city to contribute $966,075 in additional matching funds.
The grant is enough to fund and create 15 positions. A grant requirement stipulates that the city hire military veterans, and APD has said it would pull from existing officers to staff the Path Force.
APD announced the creation of the Path Force in June, which it said would be dedicated to patrolling and serving as a crime deterrent on the Atlanta BeltLine.
The BeltLine is a 33-mile loop of trails and 1,200 acres of greenspace, that, when complete, will create a loop of park space around the city.
Residents who live off the area of the BeltLine known as the Eastside Trail, which includes the Virginia-Highland area, Midtown and the Old Fourth Ward, are happy the trail is open, but have expressed a desire for a concrete crime prevention plan.
Kit Sutherland, president of the Fourth Ward Alliance, a neighborhood association that represents a portion of the Old Fourth Ward, reiterated that point to Finley.
Having the BeltLine come online is wonderful for the community and visitors alike, but she said it's imperative to show would-be hooligans that there will be a strong law enforcement presence on the BeltLine.
Indeed the new skate park in Old Fourth Ward was recently vandalized and Sutherland said she wanted the Path Force in place addressing problems.
"You've got to get them before it becomes a trend," Sutherland said.
In addition to patrolling the BeltLine, those assigned to the Path Force will be tasked with working with BeltLine leaders, city departments and representatives of the 45 neighborhoods that the BeltLine will touch to develop crime prevention and safety strategies.
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