Oct 8, 2021 - Politics

Atlanta establishes office to reduce violent crime

Illustration of a downward arrow made out of crime-scene tape.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A new Mayor's Office of Violence Reduction will take the lead on implementing a strategy to push back on rising crime in Atlanta.

Why it matters: The office is one of several recommendations made by the Anti-Violence Advisory Council, which was established in May by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to address the spike in violent crime since the start of the pandemic.

  • As of Sept. 25, homicides in 2021 increased 23% to 121 from 98 in 2020, according to Atlanta Police Department's weekly crime report.
  • Aggravated assaults grew 17% to 1,850 from 1,582.
  • Thefts from vehicles rose 18% to 6,083 from 5,174.

Details: The office, the creation of which was formally adopted this week by the Atlanta City Council, will oversee funding for violence prevention programs and coordinate other money for similar programs.

  • According to City Council documents, the office would develop strategic plans to reduce violence in the city and coordinate citywide programs designed to reduce and prevent violence.
  • It will have three employees, a director and two staff members whose position will be funded from the executive office's existing budget and American Rescue Plan dollars.
  • The director will work with Atlanta police and other departments that have anti-violence programs in place.
  • The office will also apply for grant funding to support programs tasked with reducing violence.

The Advisory Council recommendations released in July call on the city to focus on nine initiatives such as cracking down on nuisance properties; hiring 250 additional officers; adding 250 cameras to the city's Operation Shield network; increasing the use of license plate reader technology; and adding 10,000 new streetlights by Dec. 2022.

  • The council also wants the city to invest $70 million to pay for the components.

What they're saying: Dorthey Hurst, a member of the Atlanta Citizen Review Board, said the committee is an “important first step” in curbing violence in the city.

  • The office also allows the director and staff members to tailor their focus only to its mission and could play a role in bringing together Atlanta police, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office and the sheriff’s office to address violent crime and recidivism, she said.

According to Hurst, one problem that contributes to community violence is the number of guns stolen during car break-ins across the city.

  • “We’re feeding the beast,” she said. “That’s why we have so many youth offenders who have guns. They are getting them out of these cars.”

Even when the Office of Violence Reduction gets up and running, Hurst said it’s up to the public to be more proactive in addressing crime in their neighborhoods.

  • “We can’t wait for other people to come in and own our communities,” she said. “We have to own our streets and be participants in it.”

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