Just hours after Atlanta recorded its 100th homicide of the year, the grim milestone was quickly surpassed. As police continue investigating and responding to numerous senseless acts of violence, they are continuing to plead with the community to play a role in reducing crime in the city.
“Put the guns down ... and let’s just be decent human beings,” Atlanta police Deputy Chief Charles Hampton said during a hastily called news conference Monday afternoon.
With a community already on edge and begging for answers, especially after the killings of Mariam Abdulrab on Aug. 13 and Katherine “Katie” Janness and her dog, Bowie, on July 28 in Piedmont Park, Atlanta police responded to six separate shootings this past weekend.
Two of those shootings were fatal, claiming four lives and bringing the city’s homicide count to 103.
Hampton emphasized Monday that the majority of the killings have been among those who are familiar with each other.
“We know that about 20% (of homicides) right now are stranger on stranger, which means a lot of our homicides that we are investigating are between individuals that know each other, they have some type of interaction,” he said.
About the same time Monday afternoon, in a presentation to the Atlanta City Council’s public safety committee, Assistant Chief Todd Coyt also stressed that homicides are usually not random.
“The vast majority of our violent crime involves individuals that know each other,” Coyt said. “We still need help from the community to stop these incidents from happening.”
In 2020, Atlanta police investigated 157 homicides — the most in more than two decades. By June of this year, APD reported nearly a 60% increase in homicide cases. That pace has slowed, but this year’s count is still ahead of last year.
Echoing a sentiment that police have stressed for months, Hampton said people need to find alternative ways to handle arguments. He pleaded with residents to talk through or simply walk away from fights before they escalate to gunfire.
Although police are asking the public to assist in reducing crime, the addition of a new traffic enforcement team and a mini-precinct for Zone 2, which includes Buckhead, is aimed to help the department’s crimefighting efforts.
“Morale of the officers is getting better,” Coyt said during his presentation.
Hampton also pointed to some positive numbers during his brief address. He said his department makes arrests in 75% of its homicide cases, exceeding the national average.
“Although we may not solve every single homicide right away ... our clear rate of 75% shows that we will do everything in our power to make sure that we bring people that are responsible for taking the lives of other individuals (to justice),” Hampton said.
Homicides are not the only problem Atlanta officials must confront. As of Aug. 14, there had been a 63% increase in rapes, an 18% increase in aggravated assaults and a 19% increase in auto thefts compared to last year at this time.
The police department is not the only organization beefing up its measures against crime.
The city is seeking a director of Violence Reduction, who will oversee budget investments in prevention programs and help in evaluating proposed legislation, rules and regulations related to public safety. The director will also carry out recommendations from Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ Anti-Violence Advisory Council and coordinate with other city departments and organizations.
Last month, Bottoms announced plans to invest $70 million into the city’s public safety plans.