The surge is not unique to Atlanta and comes despite concerted efforts from the mayor’s office and police department to urge people to solve disputes peacefully. Officials have said many homicide cases, most of which involve gun violence, happen when arguments lead to bullets.
“My heart is broken for these families. And I have anger in my soul,” Mayor Andre Dickens said in a statement after the apartment complex shooting. “Gun violence has become the leading cause of death for adolescents in the United States. That’s especially true for Black boys and young men. While we avoided youth violence over the summer and early fall, these last few weeks have shown all too clearly that Atlanta is not immune from this unacceptable trend.”
On Monday morning, the mayor attended a Next Level Boys Academy mentoring session, which included open discussions about violence, peer pressure and life goals.
“As Mayor, I want to keep young people safe, so you can realize independence and prosperity,” he said.
Dickens recently applauded the city’s police department track record for making arrests, along with a surveillance camera integration system that has helped solve crimes.
“The Atlanta Police Department continues to lead the nation in our efforts to close homicide investigations,” Dickens said. “We stand right now with one of the highest closure rates in the nation at 82%, and the national average is 54%. This should give you a good indication that if you hurt, harm or kill someone in this city, you will be brought to justice by this Atlanta Police Department and our friends around this region.”
Other major U.S. cities have also seen a surge in homicide cases in recent years.
In Philadelphia, city police are investigating 499 homicides this year, down from 562 in 2021. Census data shows Philadelphia’s population at 1,576,000, compared with 496,000 in Atlanta.
Baltimore, with a population of around 576,000, has reported 321 homicides this year, compared with 338 last year. Police in Chicago, population 2,696,000, have investigated 661 homicides through Dec. 11, down from 797 in 2021, crime data shows.
Miami, like Atlanta, has experienced an increase in homicide investigations. Police there investigated 91 cases last year and by Dec. 11 had investigated 96 cases for 2022 in the city, where the population is 439,000.
In Atlanta, Dickens and Police Chief Darin Schierbaum, have made frequent appearances at the scenes where violence has occurred to call for change. They were joined by Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring after a shooting on the 17th Street bridge left two youths, ages 12 and 15, fatally wounded. Three suspects, two 16 and one 15, have been arrested. Their names have not been released due to their ages.
In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to discuss his first 100 days in office, Dickens said the murder total is “too high for me. Too high for our citizens.”
“It’s tearing at me at the core,” Dickens said. “To see people, you know, take a bowling ball dispute and it ends in murder … these things concern me.”
On March 17, LaKevia Jackson became the 35th homicide victim of 2022 when she was killed outside the Metro Fun Center in southwest Atlanta. Investigators have said that what started as an argument over a bowling ball led to the shooting. Joshua Fleetwood faces murder and other charges.
Jackson, who shared a son with Atlanta rapper Young Thug, died from multiple gunshot wounds, according to police. She was 31.
Credit: Family photos
Credit: Family photos
“We talk about conflict resolution time and time again, and once again, this is an escalated dispute over a bowling ball,” Ralph Woolfolk, former Atlanta police homicide commander, said after the shooting.
In August, Atlanta reached the 100 mark for homicide cases investigated this year, a little more than a week ahead of last year’s pace.
That same month, Atlanta police Deputy Chief Charles Hampton Jr. stood near the scene of a shooting that killed two people and injured four others, including a child, at Rosa L. Burney Park on Windsor Street.
“As we’ve said countless times, we are just asking the citizens to just find a way to resolve conflict without weapons,” Hampton said during a news briefing. “We are just asking people to step away. We are asking people to let bygones be bygones.”
Not all violent crimes increased, according to police department data released weekly.
Through Dec. 10, officers saw a decline in both aggravated assault and rape cases, APD crime data showed. While homicides were reported across town, some police zones reported a decrease in cases. Zone 2, which includes Buckhead, Zone 4, in southwest Atlanta, and Zone 6 in east Atlanta, all recorded fewer homicides.
Still, the tragedies have continued. On Dec. 10, 77-year-old Eleanor Bowles was stabbed to death inside her home, less than 2 miles from the Governor’s Mansion.
Within 48 hours, investigators had announced an arrest in the case, thanks in part to both video surveillance footage and help from the public. When announcing that Antonio Brown had been charged with murder in Bowles’ death, Dickens also announced a third arrest in the the 17th Street bridge shooting.
In that case, three teenagers have been arrested and charged with murder. Their names were not released due to their ages. Police have said video of the crime led to the suspects’ arrests.
Dickens said the work of investigators should be a warning to would-be criminals in Atlanta.
“Let me very clear to those who would want to do harm in our community, who would want to perpetrate these crimes,” Dickens said. “If you pull a gun or pull out a knife in our city to hurt, harm, or kill someone, you will be arrested and sent to jail. We will use all of the tools of the APD and our friends and our partners, every resource we have, to bring to justice criminals who act in this violent way.”