Atlanta top cop: Reducing violent crime is top priority

Reducing violent crime in Atlanta is the top priority for the city's police department, Chief Erika Shields said Friday at her first press conference.

"We have an obligation to the citizens of Atlanta to clean up this violent crime," Shields said.

But for that to happen, it’s going to take everyone from property owners in violence-ridden areas to federal prosecutors working together. And repeat offenders, including juveniles, are a big part of the problem, Shields said.

In 2016, 1,100 juveniles were arrested. Five teenagers alone were arrested 101 times for their alleged roles in more than 120 crimes, Shields said.

“The current juvenile justice system is simply not working,” Shields said.

A new outreach program and youth center will target 100 of the top young offenders and their families, including younger siblings, to change the paths of potential criminals.

“The APD has no desire to lock up young black men. None,” Shields said. “These kids matter to us. We deal with them daily.”

In order to meet the community policing needs, APD must be able to recruit and retain new officers, the chief said. Currently, there are between 140 and 150 vacancies, and the department hopes to have 250 hired by the end of the year. There are roughly 75 recruits currently in training.

“Policing is a learned profession,” Shields said. “You cannot train experience.”

Hiring officers is no easy task, considering the ongoing racial tensions and riots reported across the country. Plus, though APD salaries are competitive, Shields said she will present a four-year plan for pay increases to mayoral candidates.