Kasim Reed says progress being made on repeat offender problem

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed says the city has made progress in addressing the issue of repeat criminal offenders, a problem that he believes is at the root of many public safety troubles.

Reed has long blamed a small number of criminals for the bulk of serious offenses committed in Atlanta. For years, Reed criticized Fulton County judges, saying sentencing was too lenient and offenders were being released back into the public without serving time. He accused Fulton leaders of operating a "turnstile jail."

In a press conference Tuesday, Reed repeated a statistic that 461 offenders were arrested and charged with more than 10,000 crimes between 2011 and 2013. Of those, only 16 were sent to prison during those years.

Now, about 55 percent of those same offenders are being locked up, he said. Reed credited collaboration with the Atlanta Repeat Offenders Commission, which includes Fulton Superior Court judges, for helping develop a “comprehensive approach” to the issue.

“What is happening is that people who commit an inordinate number of crimes and go re-offend are now receiving sentences appropriate for the crimes they’re convicted of,” he said.

Reed is attempting to rebuild and reinforce his image as a tough-on-crime mayor after a year of high-profile and violent offenses rattled Atlantans’ perceptions of safety. Atlanta had 94 murders in 2015, up from 83 in 2012 and 80 in 2009, the year before Reed took office. Reed noted Tuesday that, while overall crime is down 3 percent, he views “the repeat offender effort as the most important thing we can do around perception.”

The mayor said that the city, with the help of the Atlanta Police Foundation, has added thousands of new security cameras, is developing a security patrol in the city’s west side, is partnering with the Pulte Group to build homes for Atlanta police officers, and is in the process of launching a development center for youth on the west side.