Breaking News
More () »

1,000 people responsible for 40% of crimes in Atlanta, police say

APD established its new repeat offender unit. But, others wonder what happens to break the cycle of arrest, convict, repeat.

ATLANTA — Atlanta Police Department is cracking down on repeat offenders with their new Repeat Offender Tracking Unit, releasing that 1,000 people are responsible for 40 percent of the crimes committed in Atlanta. 

In just one week, Atlanta Police arrested 20 repeat offenders who had a total of 553 previous arrests and 114 felony convictions.

The new unit will share information between police and the court system to keep offenders in jail longer instead of bonding out and committing another crime. 

While police handle that part of the problem, some wonder what happens after the arrests and reconvictions. Will they be re-released in five to ten years only to hop back into the criminal cycle?

Longer prison sentences may solve part of the problem, but others say looking within the prisons is where to find the other part of the solution. 

"If we are convicting folks and incarcerating them to the same system that sent them back to our communities in the first place, without addressing the need of rehabilitation services, mental health," Devin Barrington-Ward, who was a member of former Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms task force said. "Then it's really just a revolving door."

As a former member of Bottoms task force, he worked to reimagine the Atlanta City Detention Center. Ward wants to see public safety issues addressed from more than just a police and prison standpoint.

Research shows people with drug and alcohol addictions re-offend more often. And many states lean on additional research that shows how programs to help offenders get job training, housing, mental and substance abuse help before they're released reduce the likelihood they'll commit crimes again.

 "Why are we sending them back to the same system over and over again, if they've gone to prison before since 1974," Barrington-Ward said. "That doesn't make sense to send them back to the same system that hasn't corrected the behavior that has caused the criminality in the first place."

The tendency of a previously convicted criminal to re-offend or recidivism rates in the country show that areas that depend heavily on re-entry programs have the lowest rates of repeat offenders in the country.

Virginia and South Carolina, for instance, have the lowest in the country at 23.1%.

South Carolina implemented their re-entry program in 2018, and its recidivism rate dropped for the first time in more than 20 years.

Mayor Andre Dickens said training resources and programs exist; they just have to get repeat offenders off the streets first.

"Any system that allows a cycle of career crime is a broken system," Dickens said at Tuesday's press conference.

"I agree wholeheartedly with that statement," Barrington-Ward said. "Which is why I have very serious concerns of why in that same breath, would you also be supporting the standing up have a very similar system."


Before You Leave, Check This Out