Arrests made in 72% of this year’s killings, Atlanta mayor says

Atlanta Mayor, Andre Dickens speaks Tuesday, March 15, 2022, at the podium as police command staff (left to right) Lt. Ralph Woolfolk, commander of Atlanta police's homicide unit, Deputy Chief Charles Hampton and police chief, Chief Rodney Bryant talked about how Atlanta's homicide detectives have made arrests in 72% of this year's killings. (John Spink/John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

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Atlanta Mayor, Andre Dickens speaks Tuesday, March 15, 2022, at the podium as police command staff (left to right) Lt. Ralph Woolfolk, commander of Atlanta police's homicide unit, Deputy Chief Charles Hampton and police chief, Chief Rodney Bryant talked about how Atlanta's homicide detectives have made arrests in 72% of this year's killings. (John Spink/John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Dickens, police chief pledge to crack down on street racing, hire more cops

Atlanta’s homicide detectives have made arrests in 72% of this year’s killings, the city’s mayor and police chief said Tuesday.

Speaking at a joint news conference at Atlanta’s public safety headquarters, Mayor Andre Dickens and Chief Rodney Bryant also vowed to hire more police officers and double down on efforts to curb street racing across the city.

Atlanta police have investigated 33 homicides since the start of the year, up from 24 through this time last year, records show. But homicide investigators have made arrests in about three quarters of those cases, Dickens said, praising the department for “cracking down on violent crime.”

ExploreAtlanta’s 2021 homicide victims

“I want to stress to the would-be offenders out there that if you think you want to commit a crime in this city, you might want to think again,” Dickens said. “We have our eyes on you and you will be caught.”

Dickens said the national average for homicide arrests is about 54%.

Crime was the central issue in last year’s mayoral race and the catalyst for a movement among some Buckhead residents to secede from Atlanta and form their own city. Those efforts were thwarted in the General Assembly, but violent crime and street racing remain hot topics among those concerned with public safety.

City officials installed metal plates at the intersection of 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue after drivers doing doughnuts marked up the iconic rainbow crosswalks on back-to-back weekends last month.

Dickens called street racing a problem that is “plaguing” all of metro Atlanta.

ExploreMetal plates installed at rainbow crosswalks to stop drivers from doing doughnuts

“We’re not going to tolerate it,” he said, calling the rainbow crosswalks “a symbol of hope” for everyone in the city. Each time the crosswalks were vandalized, city workers were quick to get there and clean off the skid marks, he noted.

The mayor said Atlanta is partnering with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and Fulton Sheriff Patrick Labat to create a “Repeat Offenders’ Unit” tasked with keeping habitual offenders from committing additional crimes.

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Atlanta police Chief Rodney Bryant (left) and Mayor Andre Dickens said they plan to crack down on street racing and repeat offenders. (John Spink/John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Atlanta police Chief Rodney Bryant (left) and Mayor Andre Dickens said they plan to crack down on street racing and repeat offenders. (John Spink/John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

caption arrowCaption
Atlanta police Chief Rodney Bryant (left) and Mayor Andre Dickens said they plan to crack down on street racing and repeat offenders. (John Spink/John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

There’s also a “Court Watch” program in the works that would encourage residents to monitor court proceedings, increasing pressure on Fulton’s judges to keep certain people behind bars.

“It allows judges to see that community members and victims care and they understand that they want to see good sentencing as it relates to violent crime,” Dickens said. “Fighting crime takes all of us working together.”

Bryant said that last week his officers arrested more than 20 people deemed to be “repeat offenders,” meaning they had at least three felony convictions. They had between them a combined 553 previous arrests, 114 of which were for felony charges, Bryant said.

Seven of those people were out on bond, and five of them had guns when they were arrested, despite their previous convictions, he said. Three of those five were out on bond again by the time officers completed their paperwork, according to Bryant.

“That gives you an idea of what we are facing in just one week in the city of Atlanta,” he said, estimating that gang activity accounts for about 60% of crime in Atlanta.

Deputy Chief Charles Hampton Jr. said more than 40% of the city’s homicides are the result of arguments that escalate to violence.

“Even if we had cops on every street, some of these instances we would not be able to prevent,” Hampton said. “We need people to be human beings, treat one another with love and respect, put the guns down and resolve these conflicts peacefully.”

Meanwhile, city officials are ramping up recruitment efforts as they look to attract new officers to the force.

There are three training classes either underway or set to begin soon, and Atlanta police will be at Lenox Square this weekend looking to recruit even more people, city officials said.

ExploreArrest made in case of man found shot to death in Inman Park near Beltline

Bryant also mentioned the fatal shooting of Thomas Arnold, whose body was discovered near the Atlanta Beltline late last month, not far from his Poncey-Highland home. Investigators have arrested a 28-year-old shooting suspect but are still searching for two others who were seen on surveillance footage moments before Arnold was shot.

As the weather starts to warm up, Bryant hopes to increase patrols at city parks and popular hangouts in an effort to deter crime. He’s considering deploying the city’s reserve officers or asking some retired cops to come back in a limited role.

“These efforts will put more police resources back out on the street and make our community feel much safer,” he said.


THE NEXT STEPS

City officials say they’re taking the following steps to crack down on crime in Atlanta:

Increase patrols on city roads to deter street racing.

Partner with the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office and the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office to create a “Repeat Offenders’ Unit.”

Create “Court Watch,” a program where residents follow court proceedings in the hope of persuading judges to keep certain violent offenders behind bars.

Hire new officers and bring back retired cops to patrol popular destinations such as city parks and the Atlanta Beltline during the warmer months.