Atlanta on track to see 450 arrests averted this year through diversion program

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

The Atlanta Policing Alternatives and Diversion Initiative (PAD) is on track to assist 450 people this year who would otherwise be arrested for nonviolent offenses, program leaders said Monday.

The initiative aims to keep vulnerable people out of the criminal justice system and instead connect them with the social services they need.

The program, which began on a small scale in 2017, expanded citywide for the first time this year. With additional support and funding from the mayor’s office and City Council, PAD now responds to calls and trains officers across the city.

In a presentation to members of a City Council committee Monday, PAD Executive Director Moki Macias said police officers made 132 referrals to the program in the first half of 2021, and that number could reach 450 by the end of the year. Officers can call PAD if they encounter someone who may have committed a minor, nonviolent offense and would benefit from services like housing or medical care instead of going to jail.

The most common charges that led to a diversion were trespassing or urban camping. Three-quarters of the diversions stemmed from APD Zone 5, which includes downtown and Midtown.

Residents can also dial 311 to notify PAD as an alternate to calling 911 to help individuals who would benefit from services. PAD received 347 referral requests from the public from January to June, and are on track to accept 800 referrals by the end of the year, Macias said.

From January to June, PAD provided 276 people with emergency shelter.

The 311 hotline currently accepts calls to PAD from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. To make a referral to PAD, dial 311 and select “Option 1” to speak to a 311 customer service agent. The PAD team aims to respond to immediate requests within 30 minutes.