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Alpharetta’s March gambling madness

I play in a monthly poker game. It’s hosted by a co-worker and frequented by friends and acquaintances. After the news of this week I’d rather not comment on much else about the game. But I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the players have concealed carry permits. And who knows, maybe a few of them have prior convictions.

Shocking huh? Hardened criminal this blogger must be.

So when news of the Pepperoni’s Tavern bust hit this week, guys like me uttered a collective “what the…?” Comments on the Alpharetta Public Safety Facebook page suggested that the SWAT bust was excessive, a misuse of resources and heavy-handed.

In my mind there is a vague and unclear line between a friendly game among co-workers and a large, organized gambling enterprise. Certainly Alpharetta’s police are not going to kick in the doors at McKesson because Bob from Accounting is collecting five spots for the March Madness pool. At least let’s hope not.

So I attempted to ask Alpharetta’s police this very question and got promptly ignored on every call I made to them. It still isn’t clear where this line is or at what point they wire up an informant and infiltrate your neighborhood poker game.

But by yesterday afternoon the story became a little more clear with a new press release from the city. Pepperoni’s game was large, with six figures in the kitty. It crossed that line and probably needed to be busted. Overkill on the SWAT team? Yeah.

In the end, Alpharetta isn’t really any safer. A handful of regular dudes are feverishly stacking books at the library, quickly earning those community service hours to get their arrest records removed. The owners of Pepperoni’s, who no doubt were stupid, may lose their restaurant in the process. It remains closed at this time.

Stories like this are interesting to follow for another reason. Alpharetta’s Public Safety Department is very careful to control the crime narrative in this town. News of this bust was quickly pushed to every media outlet in metro Atlanta. Perhaps it fits the mold and image of this city. The biggest crime problem we have is affluent people with so much money they can gamble big bucks on college basketball, right? Yet when a meth lab blows up an apartment, you won’t hear a peep.

In the meantime, I’ve got Kansas going all the way. Wish me luck. Daddy needs a new pair of shoes.

Michael Cross should resign

A lot of people have asked what I think of Michael Cross after this week’s news. So here goes.

michael crossI’ve found Michael to be a pleasant and likeable guy who, as an elected official, has been very approachable and helpful. His voting record suggests that he’s been willing to push back on high residential density, something that’s a rarity these days.

He’s also been booked on criminal charges while in office, twice.

He beat the rap on his 2013 DUI charge. Now comes charges of battery after allegedly throwing a trash can at his wife.

While Cross says he will not run for re-election this year, he should go ahead and resign now. Why?

Distraction.

Alpharetta is on a roll. Hundreds of millions of investment dollars are pouring in. Thousands of high tech jobs are relocating here. The city is the envy of metro Atlanta right now.

What the city does not need are embarrassing news headlines that draw attention away from that fact. The city needs leaders that can stay out of the back of police cars, off trashy reality television shows and otherwise not suggest the appearance of criminality, malfeasance, impropriety or general stupidity. Is that too much to ask?

Secondly, domestic violence is a serious issue that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Ask the NFL about what happened when they brushed off this issue. If Alpharetta handles this in their usual way then you won’t hear a peep about it at City Council meetings. Circle the wagons and wait for things to calm down is the standard operating procedure. That mentality could come back and bite the city, potentially doing more damage than has already been done.

Michael Cross deserves his day in court, is owed due process and presumed innocent until proven otherwise. But what’s best for the city is for him to sever his ties right away. He’s a nice enough guy but he needs to move on from public service.

The meth lab explosion local media didn’t tell you about

Once upon a time a meth lab exploded in an Alpharetta apartment – and local media never said a word.

meth08092

Meth seized in a 2012 drug bust in Alpharetta. Photo courtesy of 11alive.com.

Last week a Federal grand jury handed down 17 indictments to suspected members of a Mexican drug ring. This blogger found the story this week in the website of the Revue and News. One of the indicted was from Alpharetta. But way down in the story is mention of a January 3rd discovery of a meth lab.
That’s the part that jumped out at me.

On the evening of January 3rd, 2014 an apartment exploded in the Alara North Point complex off Haynes Bridge. No one was hurt in the explosion which blew the doors and blinds of the apartment out, landing in the trees outside. Police were called to the scene who discovered an operational methamphetamine laboratory. They also seized 11 pounds of crystal meth in the bust.

I was astonished at the story, mainly because I never knew about it. WSBtv out of Atlanta covered the story, as did the CBS affiliate. But on most days I don’t get my local news by watching Atlanta television.

None of the local weekly newspapers covered the story five months ago. Not the Revue and News, the Neighbor and certainly the Alpharetta Patch missed it. This blogger of course did as well.

Was it because we were coming off the long Christmas and New Years holiday break? Perhaps.

Or was the story kept on the down-low? WSB’s reporter mentioned in his January 4th report that police were being “tight-lipped”. Certainly it’s not the news narrative we’re accustomed to seeing coming out of this community.

Either way, five months ago or now, this is frightening stuff. I’m disappointed that local media (including myself) didn’t bring this story to the community. And I continue to be amazed at how Atlanta television runs circles around north Fulton-based journalists.

Apartments, apartments, apartments

They’re back! The proposed Deerfield Parkway apartment complex in Milton has resurfaced. If you’ll remember back about a year ago the city narrowly rejected a request from Crescent Resources to build a new complex on Deerfield Parkway. The developer sued Milton arguing that the city was violating the Georgia Fair Housing Act by rejecting affordable housing.


View Crescent Resources apartments in a larger map

Since that time Milton created a form-based zoning code in the Deerfield area. The judge hearing the lawsuit remanded the case back to Milton so that the developer could reapply for the zoning under the new rules.

This case will be interesting to watch. The argument was made in court that the developer wanted to build lower-end apartments. Will Crescent make this pitch to Milton, or will they come with a high-end product? We talked about this double standard last year. It’s all starting to play out now.

And back in Alpharetta… Tonight that city’s Council will consider creating something akin to a neighborhood watch program for apartment complexes. Traditional programs like this don’t work in apartments so law enforcement has to get a little creative. It’s a good program though. But remember, apartment opponents are unreasonable when they say apartments invite crime, right?

And while not technically apartments (yet), there’s another interesting nugget on Council’s agenda tonight. Council will begin discussing developer qualifications for the City Center project. This is for the four sections that will be privately developed.

Up until this point, the city has never mentioned the word “residential” with regard to their City Center project. They’ve tip toed around it but the word has not appeared in a single document or discussion – until now. I predicted the city would wait until after the election for this topic. With nearly everyone running unopposed, it’s now safe to have this conversation out loud in city hall. Bring on the high density residential!

And if condos over retail are still unfinanceable, then you can expect a developer to come with a plan for apartments in downtown. Remember, it’s all for the sake of having a “vibrant” downtown.

Massage parlors in Alpharetta and south Forsyth

There’s prostitution on McFarland Parkway.

No, there are not women of the night walking up and down this busy road. But there are massage parlors in south Forysth that are fronts to prostitution. This is a pretty serious accusation to make so I’m not going to name businesses. My readers are smart people – y’all figure it out.

I googled the name of one of these places. Almost all the links are to either prostitution review websites or online classifieds. These ads contain pictures of scantily clad women, most of whom are Asian. The review websites go into lurid detail. They’ll explain sexual acts “services” offered and the price someone might pay.

I write about this to offer some kudos to Alpharetta. Last night the city considered a stronger ordinance designed to keep these businesses away. The ordinance was so detailed it took the city attorney 37 minutes to read it into the record.

These illicit massage parlors invite criminal activities to the area. They can be linked to organized crime and human trafficking. They also contribute to diminished property values and overall blight of the community.

McFarland Parkway is still a safe place, for now. To keep it that way Forsyth County shoulder consider getting tough on massage parlors. Alpharetta’s stronger ordinance is terrific. But the consequences of it might be to push more of these parlors just across the county line.

The Michael Cross DUI

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this week then you know this news. Alpharetta councilman Michael Cross was arrested over the weekend for DUI. You can read about it here, here and here. There’s no need to go over the facts of the case. They’ve been more than covered.

This blog has been silent on the issue until now. There are a few facets that are still worth talking about. There are also some interesting comparisons and contrasts to be made.

The Paul Oakes Wacky World Incident - There were allegations that Mr. Oakes received preferential treatment from the police during this incident a year and a half ago. Oakes served on the board of the Alpharetta Public Safety Foundation.

Like Oakes, Michael Cross also serves this charity that supports local police and firefighters. But you would have a tough time arguing that Cross received any preferential treatment Saturday night given the seriousness of the charges brought against him.

I expect Cross, a lawyer by trade, to vigorously defend himself. There’s no breathalyzer evidence against him. Without that physical data, he’s likely going to challenge the report and testimony of the arresting officer. This is awkward considering his years of support of Alpharetta’s Public Safety department.

But kudos are owed to the Alpharetta Police for how they’ve handled the case up to this point. Very professional.

DUI Debbie - Cross isn’t the first member of Alpharetta’s Council to be arrested for DUI. Debbie Gibson faced similar charges. During her re-election campaign in 2007 she was the target of a vicious online campaign. The DUIDebbie.com website was mean spirited and downright cruel.

Will Michael Cross get the “DUI Debbie treatment”? If you had asked me Monday I would have said no. But several comments online this week have suggested that this is coming. It’s disappointing.

Should a Councilman resign after DUI charges like this? We can have that discussion. But there is no reason to drag this process into the gutter. My personal opinion is that he can serve while facing the charges. But my opinion might change depending on how he handles himself during this time. Were he to be convicted he should resign immediately.

One personal note… I’ve met Michael Cross a few times. From this time together I’ve found him to be a personable and likeable fella, not unlike most in Alpharetta. I believe him to be a good family man. Before Saturday’s events I had no reason to ever think he would put his family or the public in danger.

That’s all for now. I welcome your respectful and civil discussion on this topic.

Wanted for murder: Shane Woods

The murder/suicide in Johns Creek is horrible and tragic. Unfortunately it is having the effect of pushing this story back a few pages in the newspapers. Let’s catch this scumbag.

Alpharetta police are seeking Shane Demetrice Woods, age 22, to face charges of murder. He may also be known as Yung Slim ABG. Police are offering a $1,000 award for information that leads to his capture and arrest.

Shane Woods is wanted for the murder of Zachary Rose. Rose was shot and killed in the Stoneridge subdivision on January 28.

Woods should be considered armed and dangerous. If you see him, dial 911.

Domestic violence claims victim in Alpharetta

The juxtaposition of these two headlines really jumped out today. Knowing the staff at the Appen Newspapers, I’m sure it was not an accident. The same day the paper writes a story about domestic violence awareness a woman dies of wounds suffered in a domestic violence incident. The online cover of the newspaper was ironic, chilling and poignant at the same time.

We’re fortunate that murders are extremely rare in this community but they do happen. What’s less rare, unfortunately, is domestic violence. Charities like Family Haven in Forsyth County play such a vital role and should be supported.

Please join me in offering thoughts and prayers for this family. I hope justice is served.

Putting Habitat for Humanity on trial?

In September 2011 a violent home invasion occurred in the Glen Abbey neighborhood of Alpharetta and was widely reported in the news. This neighborhood was built by Jim Cowart Residential – a fact not reported in the media. Why? Because it’s irrelevant and doesn’t explain the crime in any way.

On Sunday a boy was senselessly murdered in Milton. Several local news outlets saw fit to mention that the neighborhood was built by Habitat for Humanity. Is this a necessary thing to report? I don’t believe it is. These townhomes are owner-occupied just like the homes in Glen Abbey. So why bring it up?

When you report a story in this way you’re making an insinuation in an ever so subtle way. And unfortunately some in our community are making very direct statements on online forums about Habitat communities and crime. It’s ugly, disrespectful, undignified and not appropriate so soon after such a tragedy.

The insinuation is that families that live in Habitat communities are undesirable or prone to crime or violence. The simple fact is that this kind of crime can occur anywhere. There are broken families in every neighborhood. There are people prone to violence in all walks of life. This murder could have happened just as easily in Windward or White Columns.

Habitat for Humanity does amazing work. Dragging them into this discussion is irresponsible. Let’s put this cowardly step-father on trail and not this amazing charity. And let’s not demean Habitat families who quite literally built their own homes in addition to paying for them.

Now is the time to mourn the loss of this young man and support his family and friends at Alpharetta High School. Say a prayer for them and hug your kids.

Number of the Month – Home Invasion Arrests

Around the first of the month I publish the number of the month, a random bit of local trivia.

Eight

The number of arrests made in connection to a home invasion in Roswell targeting an Indian family. Police in Cobb County believe the same suspects were behind a similar home invasion in Mableton.

Both crimes were similar to Alpharetta’s home invasions in September and November. It is my sincere hope that authorities can link the cases and bring these criminals to justice. It would be nice to start the new year knowing that this crime wave is behind us.

Continued kudos to Mike Petchenik at WSB-TV for offering the most timely news on home invasions in north Fulton. I suggest you follow Mike on Twitter at @PetchenikWSB.

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