About six weeks ago, Atlanta police noticed an uptick in burglaries, car thefts and break-ins in Midtown’s Garden District, an area of the city with 23,000 residents.
Their investigations led them to two repeat offenders in Atlanta: John Hicks and Shabazz Morgan. Hicks, 43, was arrested on burglary, fraud and theft charges last month and remained in the Fulton County Jail. Morgan, 44, is still on the run. Combined, the two have 90 prior arrests, Atlanta police Zone 5 Commander Darin Schierbaum said.
Midtown sits in Atlanta’s police Zone 5, which also includes downtown and part of the city’s westside. The zone has seen an 11% increase in robberies and 36% increase in thefts from this time last year, according to data from the police department.
“What you see is the challenge in recidivism,” Schierbaum said. Recidivism, or repeat offenders, has been a concern among residents and was the subject of several town halls held by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms earlier this year.
Last year, Atlanta police arrested 86 repeat offenders who’ve had multiple felony arrests and 36 percent were sentenced to serve time in prison, according to the Atlanta Repeat Offender Commission’s annual report released last month.
The potential closing of the Atlanta City Detention Center also poses a concern for where reoffenders would be held after their arrest. The city jail houses nonviolent offenders, but has been used to house Fulton County Jail inmates.
“It’s very concerning for us that there are known burglars, thieves, robbers and within two or three weeks, we see them on the street again,” Schierbaum said.
Many of the crimes that plague Midtown residents are quality of life crimes including aggressive panhandling and vagrancy. But residents have seen an uptick in more serious crimes such as armed robbery, car theft, and car break-ins.
“It starts to impose on your everyday life and so you notice it,” Midtown Neighbors’ Association President Courtney Smith said.
Atlanta police met with the association last week to discuss crime initiatives and some of the issues they face while policing.
Schierbaum said increased crime is usually tied to groups targeting a certain area. When the department notices the increase, they send additional officers to patrol the area and use specialized tactics to capture burglars and thieves.
Smith said increased patrols have reduced crime over the past few weeks.
“I think it’s a testament to the request for more resources,” she said.
Schierbaum credited much of their successful arrest rate to the neighborhood group: “We’re successful in making these arrests because we have an engaged neighborhood in notifying us of crimes.”
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