How technology helped save the day

In the immediate and tragic aftermath of the midtown Atlanta shooting of five women in a doctor’s office waiting room on May 3, officers from almost every city/county police agency in metro Atlanta, as well as the Georgia State Patrol, SWAT teams and multiple sheriff offices, converged on the area.

Deion Patterson, a 24-year-old veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, was later arrested, taken into custody, and charged, waiving his first arraignment hearing. Patterson was seeking help for acute anxiety and depression first from the Atlanta V.A. Medical Center, and after they declined to provide a potentially addictive medication, specifically Ativan, Patterson and his mother visited a private practice in midtown Atlanta, at a Northside Hospital medical facility, in search of that prescription.

Patterson’s mother, on the day of the shooting, acknowledged in a story from Associated Press that her son “…had some mental instability going on” from medication that he had begun taking a few days earlier. The V.A. had provided Patterson with a prescription for Buspirone. After arriving late for the private medical appointment, Patterson and his mother were told that they would need to reschedule and return. The suspect then pulled out a handgun and opened fire in the doctor’s office waiting room, killing one victim almost instantly, and critically injuring the other four.

Patterson fled on foot, and his image was captured on multiple networked security and surveillance cameras throughout the area. A more than eight-hour manhunt ensued. At a nearby gas station, security cameras captured Patterson stealing an unattended truck. License plate reading (LPR) cameras in Cobb County captured him roughly 30 minutes after the shooting in the stolen truck. The truck was then left in a parking garage near Truist Park and located about two hours later. Patterson is not known to have accosted or injured anyone else, as he was hiding nearby at the Waterford Place condominium complex at The Battery.

Cobb County Police continued the search on foot, assisted by various technological tools, including multiple networked security camera systems in The Battery, and the LPRs which helped to identify and locate the fleeing truck. Cobb Police Chief Stuart Van-Hoozer credited his department as well as the new technologies in facilitating the arrest and takedown without the use of deadly force.

Certainly, credit for the arrest goes to the Cobb County and Atlanta police officers, particularly those Cobb officers on the scene, but without these proven technologies and assistance; the arrest likely might not have occurred.

The city of Brookhaven was the first to install LPR’s in metro Atlanta. The city and its police department now have LPR cameras along every major thoroughfare as well as points of entry to its municipality. Though the city is just more than a decade old, and the police department is even younger, prior to the LPR cameras, the department might recover four or five stolen vehicles per year. Following the camera installation—which can automatically track license plates of vehicles reported stolen, Amber Alerts, carjackings, and similar crimes—the stolen vehicle recovery number jumped to 12 to 15 per month, and nearly 150 cars per year.

Brookhaven’s LPR cameras are occasionally assisted by live dispatched drones to track suspects fleeing a crime scene, as well as a third Live911 technology enhancement, feeds from real-time live audio from 911 dispatch to officers in the field, all helping the Brookhaven Police case closure rates to surge, while also making the newer city a safer place. Implementation of each of these technology tools costs less than the annual salary and benefits of a single new officer, while also serving as a force multiplier.

As with the Cobb County Police, a minor technology investment made a major difference in policing and public safety. Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labatt recently estimated that mental health challenges are identified and present among 54 percent of his detainee population. The investment needed there will be significant to make a lasting improvement and impact.

In Georgia, most of these technology upgrades are being implemented within urban centers selected from among 159 counties, and nearly 600 municipalities. These upgrades are paid for locally as funding sources are identified or become available. In a year of record spending by the state of Georgia, Georgia leaders need to step up and step in. There are lives on the line.

Bill Crane is political analyst and commentator in metro Atlanta, as well as a columnist for The Champion, DeKalb Free Press and Georgia Trend. Crane is a DeKalb native and business owner, living in Scottdale. You can contact him or comment on a column at


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