Atlanta council to study ways to curb rise in crime

Panel to consider new center for public safety
High-ranking APD official addresses criticism over increasing crime in Buckhead

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High-ranking APD official addresses criticism over increasing crime in Buckhead

The Atlanta City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to study creating a new center for public safety and wellness to address the surge in violent crime in the city.

Among the items being considered is closing the city’s detention center. The council also acknowledged low morale among police officers and a growing demand from residents and businesses to keep the city’s streets safe.

In 2020, the city saw a 62% percent increase in homicides and a 15% increase in aggravated assaults.

During the virtual meeting, the public flooded the council with comments to continue with Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms plans to close the city’s jail and turn it into a wellness center.

“The legislation unanimously approved today at full council will not immediately solve the rising issue of crime within our city but will provide near term,” said Councilman Antonio Brown, who introduced the legislation. “The legislation focuses on building greater trust between law enforcement and the community, we’ll be able to increase security and safety in our city, especially for our most vulnerable populations. This is a positive step for our city as we continue the work of reimagining public safety and wellness in Atlanta.”

Last week, newly elected Fulton County Sheriff Patrick “Pat” Labat told the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods that he was developing a plan to take over the jail to ease overcrowding in the county’s jail, and to help fulfill one of his campaign promises to fight an increase in violent crime in the county — a proposal supported by former Mayoral Candidate Mary Norwood.

Norwood was repeatedly singled out by name during the public comments section of the meeting on Tuesday.

“Please don’t listen to Mary Norwood,” one woman said. “We know that services, resources and strong communities keep us safe and not jails.”

Those sentiments were echoed virtually word for word for the better part of an hour.

“Crime has been out of control for too long in the City of Atlanta,” Norwood said on Tuesday. “Now, for the past several months, we are suffering through a crisis of violent crime that is terrorizing our families, our neighborhood, and our businesses. Furthermore, too many people who have been arrested for violent crimes are being released within hours of their arrest.”

The resolution provides two Atlanta City Council committees 60 days to complete the study and offer recommendations.

“The Administration has made significant progress in its work on the important issues of public safety, police reform and justice reform,” a Bottoms spokesman said. “We welcome input from the City Council — with an understanding of the roles of each branch of government.”

Last week, Labat said one of his first actions as sheriff was to put 44 deputies out in the streets from Union City to Atlanta. He said Buckhead was a major focus of the department’s efforts.

“We will continue to focus on Fulton County as a whole, but again making sure we meet our standards of increasing our numbers, the presence in the streets,” Labat saId.

In a press release, Norwood, now the chairman of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, which advocates for the most wealthy area of Atlanta, had urged

In recent months, residents and officials in Buckhead have grown increasingly worried about an uptick in violent crimes, including shootings and aggravated assaults.

Last December, a collection of Buckhead’s political, business and neighborhood leaders released a security plan that proposed the creation of a new security patrol program.

The patrol, which would cost more than $1.6 million, will be made up of officers from the Atlanta Police Department, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, the Georgia State Patrol, and private security firms.

Commercial hubs like Lenox Square mall have seen several recent shootings, and nighttime street racing on Atlanta’s corridors became more frequent after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

These incidents have left many Buckhead residents on edge. Atlanta police reported 157 homicides in 2020, an increase of more than 50 percent from 2019 and the highest total for the city this century.

The death of 7-year-old Kennedy Maxie, shot in the head Dec. 21 last year while riding in a car with her family near Buckhead’s Phipps Plaza, served as a tipping point for many.

Labat said he is working on a proposal to purchase the Atlanta detention center to ease overcrowding in Fulton County’s jail. That action would be at odds with Bottoms’ effort to turn the facility into a equity center for social services.

“I’ve not been silent on this issue,” he said.

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