HomeBudget & Tax NewsViolent Crime Increases Rapidly in Atlanta As Police Leave

Violent Crime Increases Rapidly in Atlanta As Police Leave

Violent crime has been on the rise in Atlanta since last summer. Between January 1 and February 20 of this year, 18 homicides occurred, an 80 percent increase over the same period last year, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Shooting incidents were up 32 percent for the same period. Robberies are up 17 percent, and aggravated assaults are up by 47 percent. In the police zone that includes the downtown area, aggravated assaults rose by 24 percent and auto thefts rose more than 200 percent compared with the same period last year, WSJ reports.

This trend is a reversal of the trajectory Atlanta had been on prior to 2020. In the past several years, wealthier people and families had moved into the city, attracted to some of the large corporations headquartered there. Now the trend is reversing as crime drives people out to the suburbs and beyond.

The rapid increase in crime has coincided with a reduction in police protection. As in many other U.S. cities, Atlanta’s police force came under siege in the wake of the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis and subsequent protests quickly turned into riots. Police became targets in violent uprisings.

“We were dealing with increased hostility toward law enforcement and a decreased sense of trust toward police,” said Atlanta Police Department spokesman Sergeant John Chafee in a statement. “Atlanta, as well as many other cities, saw an increase in officers leaving the job, further adding to the challenges faced in keeping our communities safe.”

As a result of the hostility and violence, many police officers resigned, leaving Atlanta with fewer officers and less protection for residents.

“The criminals read the news and watch the TV,” said Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore. “They know you are down officers.”

The year 2020 was the deadliest for Atlanta in decades, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reports. More than 200 officers left the force, and Police Chief Erika Shields stepped down. Fewer officers are on the street, and even children have become shooting victims.

On February 16 of this year, an unknown assailant hit a woman in the head with a rock while she was walking down the street, WRDW reports.

“This young lady suffered serious injuries during what was just a senseless, brutal attack,” Orangeburg County Sheriff Leroy Ravenell said. “There was no justification for this assault at all.”

“It’s really scary because you don’t know who’s going to be killed or who’s going to be shot or where those shots are coming from,” Atlanta activist Columbus Ward told the AJC. “It’s just everywhere.”

Stan Crowder, an associate criminal justice professor at Kennesaw State University, says it should not be surprising that morale dropped among the Atlanta police after criminal charges were brought against officers during the summer’s riots and unrest.

“The way law enforcement officers were treated by the district attorney and by politicians, you can see their hesitancy and lack of initiative because they don’t know who’s in their corner anymore,” Crowder said.

Atlanta residents frustrated by the 58 percent rise in homicides have been criticizing Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Bottoms says her leadership is not to blame.

“Wherever people would like to place blame, [that] doesn’t get us any closer to the solution,” Bottoms told the AJC. “This is a challenge across the country and we’re all trying to wrap our arms around it.”

Civic leaders such as Atlanta City Council member Howard Shook aren’t buying the mayor’s explanation.

“Stop minimizing our concerns by telling us that crime is up everywhere,” Shook told the AJC. “Spare us from the lie that the steady outflow of our officers isn’t as bad as it is. It will take a lot to turn this around. But here, in descending order, are the three things we need to begin: leadership, some leadership, any leadership.”

Eileen Griffin
Eileen Griffin
Eileen Griffin writes from Richland, Washington.


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