Opinion: Deflecting responsibility won’t reduce city’s homicide rate

November 9, 2020 Atlanta: Atlanta police investigate the scene where a shootout outside a southwest Atlanta club Monday morning, Nov. 9, 2020 killed one man and injured a bystander who was caught in the crossfire, police said. Both victims were found in the parking lot of The Voo lounge on Campbellton Road near Childress Drive when officers arrived about 6:30 a.m. According to Atlanta police Lt. Pete Malecki, clubgoers scattered when first responders got on scene. “At this point, we don’t have any witnesses that have come forward and provided information,” he told AJC.com. “But what we are gathering is there was some kind of shootout, and we know that our surviving victim was caught up in that crossfire when he was injured.” That victim, described as a 28-year-old man, was taken to a hospital in an ambulance and was expected to survive, Malecki said. The other man, who appeared to be in his late 20s or early 30s, was dead at the scene. He has not been identified. Malecki, who heads APD’s homicide unit, said he is hopeful the surviving victim will be able to shed some light on what happened once he is out of surgery. While they believe the club was open at the time of the shooting, Malecki said none of the employees or management stuck around to speak with investigators. A handgun and 15 spent shell casings were recovered at the scene, he said. Anyone with information on Monday morning’s deadly incident is asked to come forward. Tipsters can remain anonymous, and be eligible for rewards of up to $2,000, by contacting Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-8477, texting information to 274637 or visiting the Crime Stoppers website. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)
November 9, 2020 Atlanta: Atlanta police investigate the scene where a shootout outside a southwest Atlanta club Monday morning, Nov. 9, 2020 killed one man and injured a bystander who was caught in the crossfire, police said. Both victims were found in the parking lot of The Voo lounge on Campbellton Road near Childress Drive when officers arrived about 6:30 a.m. According to Atlanta police Lt. Pete Malecki, clubgoers scattered when first responders got on scene. “At this point, we don’t have any witnesses that have come forward and provided information,” he told AJC.com. “But what we are gathering is there was some kind of shootout, and we know that our surviving victim was caught up in that crossfire when he was injured.” That victim, described as a 28-year-old man, was taken to a hospital in an ambulance and was expected to survive, Malecki said. The other man, who appeared to be in his late 20s or early 30s, was dead at the scene. He has not been identified. Malecki, who heads APD’s homicide unit, said he is hopeful the surviving victim will be able to shed some light on what happened once he is out of surgery. While they believe the club was open at the time of the shooting, Malecki said none of the employees or management stuck around to speak with investigators. A handgun and 15 spent shell casings were recovered at the scene, he said. Anyone with information on Monday morning’s deadly incident is asked to come forward. Tipsters can remain anonymous, and be eligible for rewards of up to $2,000, by contacting Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-8477, texting information to 274637 or visiting the Crime Stoppers website. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

THE EDITORIAL BOARD’S OPINION

The famously outspoken American President Harry S Truman was known for remarking “the buck stops here,” meaning that making hard calls often fell to him.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms might do well to absorb that sage advice. It’s part of the unwritten job description of most any leadership post, especially one as important and influential as hers.

That was our reaction after reading her comments this week implying that Gov. Brian Kemp’s decisions allowing restaurants, bars and nightclubs to stay open during the pandemic was a factor in recent shootings at Atlanta nightspots. “We’re open as if we are not in the midst of a pandemic,” Bottoms said. “There’s not a lot that we can do about that locally because obviously the governor has made the decision to keep the state open,” she said during a virtual briefing with local journalists Wednesday.

Really, Mayor Bottoms? We’d like to think the hardworking officers of the Atlanta Police Department might have figuratively rolled their eyes at that sentiment.

After all, it’s their sworn duty to wrestle against crime. And they’re facing a much-tougher struggle this year. Nearly 130 homicides have occurred in the city so far this year. That’s a big jump from the 99 recorded in all of 2019. And high-profile incidents such as the two people shot and killed this month at a downtown lounge dramatically humanize what might otherwise be dry statistics. Aggravated assault numbers are up too.

Statistics indicate serious crime overall was down about 20% in the city so far this year. Skeptics wonder if some of that’s due to police patrolling less or making fewer arrests. Some say the pandemic may have helped drive down the numbers of certain crimes.

That doesn’t diminish that the city’s spike in murders is quite concerning for those who live or do business in Atlanta.

And it needs to be acknowledged and dealt with more assertively than we’ve seen to date.

The rise in homicides is not the fault of Gov. Kemp. And we say that having criticized some of Kemp’s COVID 19-related decisions in previous editorials.

A subsequent statement from the mayor’s office made that point, reading in part that, “At no point did the Mayor place blame at the feet of any individual elected official for the tragic shooting in question.”

We agree that the city has too many tragic murders. Atlanta must find ways to do better in crime-reduction efforts.

One place to start might be resolving one way or another the status of the current interim police chief. Doing so might help stabilize the department and better position APD for the hard work ahead.

Homicide detectives have been known to say that there’s no real way to police against murder. As in homicides often result from a pinpoint concurrence of flashpoints.

Be that as it may, we have to believe there are ways for Atlanta to be more proactive in modern policing that can make a difference where it counts – in saving lives on the streets.

The Editorial Board.

In Other News