On Friday, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced that she wants to create an office of violence reduction and invest $70 million to develop and implement strategies to address crime. In March, Bottoms said she wants the city to hire 250 more police officers, expand the city’s camera network and license plate reader systems; and add 10,000 more streetlights in the city by Dec. 31, 2022.
Atlanta Assistant Police Chief Todd Coyt told the House panel that, since June, the homicide rate has dropped and he suggested the city’s public safety plans are working.
Coyt told the panel that more law enforcement is only part of the answer to addressing spikes in crime.
“We’re trying to establish the partnerships with the churches and with businesses,” he said. “We know we cannot arrest ourselves out of this problem. Law enforcement is only a part of the big picture.”
House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, told the panel he plans to ask the General Assembly to approve spending $3 million to pay for 20 additional state troopers and to double the state’s gang and human trafficking task forces. Most of those officers would focus on the Atlanta area.
“We cannot allow this spike in violent crime to continue to cast a pall over our capital city,” Ralston said. “I’m of the opinion that we need more state law enforcement officers working in the city of Atlanta.”
State Rep. Scott Holcomb, an Atlanta Democrat and member of the committee, said he supports taking what’s learned from the hearings to inform policy changes. But he said Monday’s hearing didn’t get lawmakers anywhere near the point of solving the problem, or even defining how big a problem it is.
“There are many variables and many, many components that have to be understood, deconstructed, analyzed and then addressed and we’re just at step one,” Holcomb said. “We’ve got a long way to go.
“I don’t think that we heard enough today to support this being at crisis levels. I think what we heard was, it is an issue, and things are elevated although nobody could really define exactly how much.”