‘This is a problem': Atlanta Mayor Bottoms addresses rise in homicides

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms addresses the media during a press briefing Wednesday morning.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms addresses the media during a press briefing Wednesday morning.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Wednesday acknowledged that more Atlanta residents may not feel safe as the city grapples with an increase in some violent crimes this year.

“We are seeing numbers we have not seen in Atlanta as it relates to our murder rate," Bottoms said during a press briefing with local media. “We recognize that this is a problem. ... Right now, our eye is on crime in Atlanta."

Rodney Bryant, the interim chief of the Atlanta Police Department, said curbing gun violence and homicides has become the department’s primary focus, along with concerns about street racing and morale within the police department. After several officers left the department over the summer, morale has improved in recent weeks, Bryant said.

Atlanta has seen 116 homicides this year, which is the most since 2007, according to APD data. For all of 2019, Atlanta had 99 homicides. Aggravated assault is up about 10% compared to this time last year.

Overall, serious crime is down 20% in Atlanta this year, statistics show, though officials said that may be partly due to the coronavirus pandemic. Burglary and larceny, for example, are down 25 to 30% compared to this time in 2019.

“We have to get a handle on” violent crime, Bottoms said, adding that it involves tackling systemic issues as well as taking immediate steps to make communities safer. She said she has already met with community leaders in Edgewood and Buckhead to discuss solutions.

The mayor mentioned that APD has also stepped up enforcement, given out more citations and increased patrols to address concerns about street racing, which has become a citywide issue this year.

“There’s been a decrease of traffic on our city streets, and people are taking advantage of that,” she said.

Bottoms spoke in support of the Atlanta Municipal Court’s temporary order that requires offenders arrested on street racing charges to stay in jail for 24 to 48 hours, and go before a judge before they can receive bond. She declined to say whether she supports a new City Council proposal that would make that rule permanent, saying it would depend on how the temporary policy works. Critics of the proposal have argued it would roll back cash bail reform efforts that Bottoms championed in 2018.