Community to get satellite police precinct

LAWRENCEVILLE - Peachtree Corners residents decided against cityhood last year, but they will soon have an amenity that some Gwinnett cities still lack - a local police precinct.

County officials are negotiating a lease for 1,800 square feet in the existing Market Place Shopping Center at 6135 Peachtree Parkway to house a satellite precinct of the Gwinnett County Police Department. Remodeling of the space will begin as soon as possible, and a ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Peachtree Corners, a small community on the southwestern edge of the county with a Norcross mailing address, has historically been policed by officers from the Westside Precinct of the Gwinnett County Police Department off Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Interstate 85.

It is the busiest of the five Gwinnett police precincts, handling more than 107,000 calls for service and making about 3,000 arrests each year. During peak traffic hours, it can take more than half an hour to drive from Westside Precinct to some areas of Peachtree Corners. Officials hope the new satellite precinct will cut down on response times while increasing police visibility on the outskirts of the county.

"I think the coming and going and police activity and patrol cars will do a lot for policing," said Commissioner Bert Nasuti, whose district includes Norcross and Peachtree Corners.

Wayne Knox, vice president of the United Peachtree Corners Civic Association was excited about the announcement on Friday. Knox and other locals have been advocating for a "badge on a window" in their neighborhood for several years.

"I wanted people to see police presence, not just patrol cars," Knox said.

"There was just a feeling that we were not as well policed as we should be, that the policing was occurring elsewhere."

Judi Quigley, a former county planning commissioner and former vice president of the association, was just as thrilled about the location as she was the precinct itself.

"I think it's a great idea, and look where we're putting it - in a failed shopping center. I think it's wonderful," Quigley said.

The Market Place shopping center was listed by the county in 2001 as one of several that were falling into disrepair. It sat almost empty, and the theater that previously anchored it had been shuttered for several years. With the opening of the Regal Peachtree Corners 10 movie theater in 2003, the shopping center rebounded. It is now almost fully leased, Nasuti said.

The satellite precinct is expected to open within the next few months. Initially, only two or three officers will staff the office, and it may not be open during all hours of the day, Nasuti said. However, if over the next year crime statistics show that a local precinct is working, the Gwinnett County Police Department may beef up manpower as it fills more than 80 new job openings for officers.

Officials may also consider opening satellite precincts in other areas if this one is a success, Nasuti said.