Gov. Brian Kemp has vowed to leverage the state’s powers to crack down on rising crime rates. Now he’s telling Georgia’s business leaders it’s time for them to do their part.
The Republican used the Georgia Chamber’s annual congressional luncheon on Tuesday as a platform to urge the corporate community to join his administration’s efforts to crack down on crime.
He warned the executives who gathered in Columbus that “if crime is rampant on the streets of your local community, businesses will look elsewhere, workforces will leave, visitors won’t show up and investment will stop.”
Kemp also called on the Georgia Chamber, the Metro Atlanta Chamber and local chapters to speak up and “work toward meaningful solutions — because, as leaders, we have a duty to act.”
The governor and other Republicans have focused on the rising crime rate in metro Atlanta as a political argument, outlining plans to boost law enforcement funding, toughen penalties for violent crimes and devote more resources to state crime-fighting initiatives. That’s on top of new efforts to crack down on human trafficking, gang violence and street racing.
The Republican-controlled Legislature also passed a law this year that prevents local governments from making steep cuts to law enforcement funding, even though there’s little evidence the “defund the police“ movement has gained any traction. And Kemp has asked lawmakers to take up new tough-on-crime proposals in a special legislative session later this year.
But the challenge Kemp issued Tuesday also underscores the governor’s frustration with some business executives who came out against the state’s new election law but have so far steered clear of talking about the rising number of shootings and homicides in Atlanta.
Democrats, meanwhile, largely agree on the need to address metro Atlanta’s crime, but they encouraged a holistic approach that also factors in gun violence and the ongoing effects of the global health crisis. They’ve also urged the public not to single out Atlanta, pointing to troubling trends in other parts of the state, including Republican-dominated rural areas.
The Metro Atlanta Chamber, one of the state’s most influential business groups, has taken steps to address the issue. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported last month that the organization’s leaders were working with corporate executives, law enforcement officials and community advocates to develop a united approach to combat crime in the region.
At the luncheon, Kemp pushed corporate leaders to lean on their business experience and civic background to promote new job training and mental health programs on the local level, as well as demand better funding for law enforcement officials.
“Because when local leaders have difficult conversations about issues that impact the daily lives of everyone around them, and hold people accountable, real change can happen,” he said.
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