Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms wants to create an office of violence reduction to develop and implement strategies to make a safer city.
Bottoms made the announcement Friday at City Hall when she shared recommendations submitted by her Anti-Violence Advisory Council. In May, Bottoms convened the Council — comprised of community members and partners — to review Atlanta’s plans to combat violent crime.
The mayor’s working group also advised Bottoms to pursue a $70 million investment into the recommendations, Bottoms said. She said the city will have to transfer dollars from other departments to provide the $50 million in public funding. The remaining $20 million will be generated by philanthropic and nonprofit partners, Bottoms said.
Many of the recommendations mirrored plans she announced during her State of the City Address in March. Those plans include the hiring of 250 more police officers; expansions to the city’s camera network and license plate reader systems; and the addition of 10,000 more streetlights in the city by Dec. 31, 2022.
Bottoms also restated her contention that Atlanta’s crime wave rose from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Because our state was open, and there were many people coming into our city, we were starting to see an uptick in crime before many other major cities, and unfortunately what we saw was just not something happening in Atlanta,” Bottoms said Friday.
Although homicides were previously up nearly 60% from 2020, Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said Friday that the homicide rate is currently up by less than 25%. He said the latest homicide rate suggests the city’s public safety plans “are actually putting a dent in that violent crime.”
Violent crime is an umbrella term for homicides, rape, aggravated assault and robbery.
The mayor’s council also advised Bottoms to enact a citywide expansion of Atlanta’s Cure Violence Initiative, which is a program to address gun violence between people who know each other. Bottoms said the police have seen a 50% decrease in violent crime in the Adair Park, Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, Pittsburgh, and Summerhill neighborhoods because they’ve been piloting the Cure Violence program in those communities.
Credit: Alyssa Pointer
Credit: Alyssa Pointer
Atlanta and 14 other U.S. cities and counties were selected last month to work with the White House over the next 18 months to address the national rise in homicides. Bottoms said Friday that additional funding and technical support from the federal government is essential because City Hall has a finite amount of funding and only 9,000 employees.
Bottoms also said the city plans to expand an repeat offender unit to track repeat offenders to ensure cases are being properly adjudicated. Atlanta is also increasing resources to crack down on clubs that are illegally operating after hours, and Bottoms said the police are working with communities to develop safety plans in targeted areas.
Additionally, the mayor urged residents to stop giving money to people who sell water bottles in the streets. She said the city has successfully given jobs to 1,400 young people to steer them away from dangerous activities, but she admitted it is going to be “a heavy lift” to give more young people an incentive to come into a city program that pays less.
Bottoms, who announced in May that she is not seeking reelection this year, said she hopes the next mayor will continue to enact her council’s recommendations. The recommendations are available online.
Several candidates are running to replace Bottoms as mayor. So far, the candidates with the most money raised are Councilmen Antonio Brown and Andre Dickens, attorney Sharon Gay, Council President Felicia Moore, and former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.
Dickens said in a statement that he’s looking forward to working with Bottoms. He said he wants to work with communities citywide to form a gang task force if he’s elected as mayor.
Gay said in a statement that the “serious set of recommendations” mirror some of her own proposals.
“Execution, however, is everything and that is why I already have a public safety transition team in place to make sure that the best plans move from the table to the streets. As soon as possible,” Gay said.
“I’m glad to see that Mayor Bottoms is implementing the recommendations of the City Council and the Task Force,” Moore said in a statement. “This is an all hands on deck situation that requires actions that can be taken immediately. As reported, the plan announced today seems to provide some good actionable items.”
In a statement from former Reed’s spokeswoman, she said the campaign is “thankful to Mayor Bottoms for her service,” and that Reed is reviewing the recommendations.
Key points of Bottoms’ public safety office
- Invest $70 million into nine initiatives to fight crime
- Creation of a Mayor’s Office of Violence Reduction to directly report to the mayor the progress of the public safety plans
- Place local security officers in areas most affected by violence
- Track violent repeat offenders and expand reentry services
- Support blight remediation and property development
- Hire 250 more police officers before July 2022 and install 250 more security cameras by December 2021
- Create youth councils, work with faith leaders, and invest in mental health services to support communities.
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