“The downward trends in violent crime we’re seeing as the pandemic recedes should not dim the intensity of our commitment to reduce violence across the country,” said Ernesto Lopez, the study’s co-author. “Although the levels of homicide and other violent crime are well below historical peaks, they remain intolerably high, especially in poorer communities of color.”
The shift follows Mayor Andre Dickens’ efforts aimed at combating violence, particularly among youths, with activities like the city’s Midnight Basketball League.
“If you bring down youth-related crime, you bring down crime overall,” Dickens said during the league’s championship game in June at C.T. Martin Natatorium and Recreation Center. “And so we’ve been focused on making sure that young people have opportunities to get jobs, but also after-school programming and weekend programming.”
Atlanta police have repeatedly urged people to peacefully resolve disputes.
“Put the guns down ... and let’s just be decent human beings,” Atlanta police Deputy Chief Charles Hampton said after investigators logged 100 homicides in August 2021.
Police Chief Darin Schierbaum sounded a similar tone in a news conference last month.
“We cannot do anything about an argument that started over a parking space. We need others to help us in that area,” he said. “But if you are operating a gang operation in this city, if you are running guns in this city, if you are dealing drugs in the city, you will meet the Atlanta Police Department and you will meet us with our partners.”
Atlanta police assisted both the city school system police and MARTA police with recent homicide cases. On May 28, Bre’Asia Powell was shot and killed around 2:30 a.m. during a gathering outside Benjamin E. Mays High School, where she was a star athlete and strong student. In September, Harrison Olvey, 25, was shot to death while working as a valet.
Atlanta saw killings surge in the summer of 2020 and increase in the next two years, trends repeated in other major U.S. cities. In 2022, Atlanta police investigated 170 homicide cases, the most since 1996. Earlier this year, those numbers began trending down.
For the first four months of the year, homicides were down about 40% over the same time in 2022. By July 4, 58 homicides were reported in Atlanta, down from 85 on the same date in 2022.
Police department leaders have credited a “drugs, guns and gangs” approach to crime fighting, along with an expansion of youth outreach programs. In June, the Atlanta Police Department launched Operation Heatwave, a 16-week effort to reduce homicides, shootings and armed robberies by targeting certain crime-prone areas throughout the city. Last year’s operation led to a 29% reduction in homicides, 26% in people being shot, and a 14% decrease in robberies, according to the department.
August is typically a violent month in Atlanta. There were 20 people killed in August 2020, 26 killed in August 2021 and 23 killed last August, crime data show. This year, police investigated 12 homicides and a prior case was later ruled a homicide, department data showed.
Among those August homicides, there was the year’s youngest victim to date. Six-month-old Charles Hampton died in a shooting that injured two adults at The Hills at Greenbriar, a complex along Campbellton Road. The complex has been the site of multiple homicides and dozens of shootings in recent years.