Jan 17, 2024 - News

Atlanta police hope billboards will help solve training center arsons

example of a billboard atlanta police will put up to help solve arsons related to public safety training center.

An example of a billboard Atlanta police will put up around the country to help solve arsons related to public safety training center. Photo: Atlanta Police Department

The Atlanta Police Department is launching a campaign in several cities nationwide to help capture the suspects behind arsons they say were committed in opposition to the public safety training center.

Why it matters: The national billboard campaign coincides with the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of environmental activist Manuel Paez "Tortuguita" Terán at the site.

  • Their death, which happened as law enforcement was conducting a clearing operation, propelled the mostly local opposition against the project into a national movement.

Details: Crime Stoppers of Greater Atlanta's reward of up to $200,000 for information on arsons related to the training center will be advertised on more than 450 billboards across the country, including major cities "that we believe these individuals are coming from," police chief Darin Schierbaum said.

  • The chief said the billboards will go up in Detroit, Nashville, New York and Seattle, for example.

The latest: The most recent incident in a space of arsons was reported Tuesday when equipment belonging to a construction company building the new facility was set on fire in DeKalb County, Schierbaum said.

  • Authorities in South Carolina last month arrested 23-year-old Seth Brock Spigner for allegedly setting fire to construction equipment belonging to a company with a "loose inaccurate association" with the project, the chief said.
  • "Someone thought that it was connected to this construction site and just based on that misinformation, an anarchist went there and set it on fire," Schierbaum said. "And their motivation was they thought they were stopping the public safety training center."

By the numbers: The city of Atlanta said Wednesday there's been more than 80 incidents and more than 173 arrests since breaking ground on the project.

  • 23 were classified as arsons that destroyed property in as many states, the city said.

Catch up quick: Other arson incidents Atlanta police say are connected to the public safety training center include construction equipment that was burned at a site in Gwinnett County in November; fires set to construction equipment in April, July and October on McDonough Boulevard in southeast Atlanta; the torching of Atlanta police motorcycles in July at the current Training Academy; and a May 2022 fire at the At-Promise Center, a youth crime diversion program of the Atlanta Police Foundation.

What we're watching: Whether the billboard campaign will lead to any additional arrests.

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