Crime in Atlanta down slightly in 2015

An Atlanta police officer gathers crime scene tape after the shooting investigation of a man found dead inside a vehicle last February. Photo by John Spink /AJC

Halfway through last year, talk of a national crime wave dominated the media as cities such as Baltimore and St. Louis saw dramatic increases in homicides. Atlanta was not immune, with murders up 32 percent through May over the same period in 2014.

But with 2015 now in the books it’s clear those forecasts, locally and nationally, were overly dire.

Major crimes (murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft) were actually down 3 percent in Atlanta from 2014. There were two more murders, 95 overall. That’s up 17 percent from 2013, when the city recorded its second fewest murders in 50 years.

The number of rapes reported in Atlanta also increased, up 16 percent from 2014 and more than 50 percent from 2013. APD spokeswoman Elizabeth Espy said “social media and intoxication are driving (the increase in rapes), more than in the past.” Victims are also more willing to report sexual assaults, she said.

On the positive side, aggravated assaults, burglaries and robberies were all down from 2014, according to a compilation of Atlanta police’s weekly uniform crime reports.

Georgia State University criminal justice professor Volkan Topalli said those numbers, which have steadily decreased over the last five years, provide a more accurate barometer of crime trends because they affect more people.

The outlook remains positive nationwide, according to Law Enforcement Leaders, a group of 150 current and former police chiefs, sheriffs and district, state and federal attorneys.

“Crime in the U.S. is at an all-time low across the country, and we expect it to stay that way,” the group’s chairman, Ronal Serpas, said in a statement. “Despite some misleading reports about a surge in crime rates, the data show just the opposite. In fact, as recent studies show, the overall crime rate will be lower this year than it was last year, and half of what it was in 1990.”