Illegally Removed Trees

The number of trees removed illegally dropped significantly last winter, but this summer illegal tree cutting rose to an all-time high of 417 trees. 

(Click on the image below to enlarge.)

ilegal private property trees removed no covid line

Unfortunately, around the same time illegal tree removals were reaching their peak, the police stopped responding to calls about illegal tree removal. At the April 4, 2023 NPU-B meeting, Major Ailen Mitchell, Atlanta Police Department's Zone 2 Commander, told a Peachtree Hills resident who had been unable to get an officer to respond to her call about illegal tree cutting that the APD was no longer responding to calls about illegal tree cutting.  He said that enforcement was the responsibility of the Arborist Division.

However, Section 158-33 of the Tree Ordinance states that "In instances in which an individual or firm is found cutting or otherwise destroying a tree without a permit to do so in their possession, the Atlanta Police Department shall require such person or persons to cease such operations until a permit is obtained."  It does not say that the Arborist Division must send one of their city arborists out to stop the illegal tree-cutting. The Arborist Division is not staffed to respond to illegal tree-cutting calls in a timely fashion, and they are completely closed on the weekend when most of the illegal activity takes place. 

The APD choosing not to enforce the law regarding illegal tree cutting just as it is reaching peak levels shows that the City of Atlanta does not care whether or not trees are removed with a permit, only in collecting fines.  With the fine being only $500 for the first tree and $1000 for each subsequent tree removed illegally from the same property, there is little disincentive for people to cut down any tree they want. Without police enforcement of our Tree Protection Ordinance, the Arborist Division needs to be appropriately staffed 7 days a week to enforce the Tree Ordinance or else, we cannot stop trees from being removed illegally. 


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