Atlanta to focus on getting guns off the street as crime rises

Never in Kasim Reed’s tenure as mayor of Atlanta has the city approached 100 homicides in a single year.

But, as of Wednesday, the city is at 57.

Of those 57, Atlanta Police Chief George Turner said, 50 were the result of gunfire. And, of those 50, eight have occurred since June 1 in Zone 3 alone in southeast Atlanta.

“There is definitely something going on around the space of murders,” Reed said Wednesday during a press briefing on crime reduction. “We haven’t had more than 100 murders since I have been in office, but we saw a spike. We are doing what needs to be done. We are seeing an increase in violence across America. Atlanta is not immune to that violence.”

Reed, Turner and partners including the ATF, FBI and GBI unveiled the “Summer Operation Action Plan,” meant to address the sudden spike in guns and violent crimes.

Last year at this point, there were 44 homicides in Atlanta. Between 2010 and 2015, Reed’s first six years in office, there were 536 homicides in Atlanta, roughly 89 a year.The highest number during Reed’s tenure was 95 homicides in 2015.

Overall crime in the city is down 4 percent. “But we see this turn in violence and increase in guns,” Turner said. “That is what this all about. Every resource we have will be available to stop the violence that we see trending. We have to take more guns off the streets.”

Turner said 800 guns, mostly stolen, have been taken off the streets this year.

The action plan includes Operation Whiplash, which calls for the creation of a task force that Reed said would “dramatically increase resources to respond and investigate gun-related violent crime in our city.”

It would do this by:

  • Targeting 33 "challenging and crime-ridden" neighborhoods in Atlanta.
  • Assigning 45 uniformed officers to patrol targeted areas with an emphasis on gun-related violent crimes. An additional 20 uniformed officers will assist in gathering intelligence and addressing community concerns.
  • Assigning six SWAT officers, when not on SWAT calls, to assist with traffic enforcement. During traffic stops, officers often come across guns, drugs and felons wanted on warrants.
  • Coordinating with state and federal agencies, as well as local agencies like code enforcement and the fire department.

Reed said according to police officials and data, the creation of the task force should reduce the number of shooting incidents by 10 percent, while increasing gun seizures by 20 percent.

“It’s a vigorous and detailed plan,” Reed said. “But it can be simply summed up: It’s all hands on deck.”

Reed said that 52 percent of the city’s general fund is directed to public safety, the highest in city’s history.

“There is no downside to vigilance when it comes to protecting our personal safety and securing our property,” Reed said. “We are doing everything that we can and sparing no resources to make sure people are safe.”

Of particular interest will be police zones 1, 4 and 3.

In June, Zone 3, which encompasses Southeast Atlanta, saw eight murders.

So far in 2016, the zone has had 21 homicides, a 133 percent increase over last year, according to APD crime statistics.

Most of the other crimes in that zone, including robbery, aggravated assaults, burglaries and car thefts, have gone down significantly. In fact, Zone 3 Commander Maj. Jeffrey L. Glazier said nine of the 13 beats in the area have seen crime reductions this year.

“Historically, we have had great success in Zone 3. And, if you look at robberies, rape and aggravated assaults, they are all down,” Glazier said. “But for some reason, those decreases have not had an effect on the homicide rate. Our biggest concern is the homicide rate and violence with guns. If we target that type of risky behavior, we should have more of an impact. We have to go after the guns.”