ATLANTA — Law enforcement across metro Atlanta came together Wednesday to discuss solutions to the uptick in crime and how they can help each other. Atlanta Police hosted the roundtable. Data showed the City of Atlanta in particular has had a violent start to 2022.
According to Atlanta Police statistics, as of February 5, homicides were up 64-percent from this time a year ago. In that same time period, rapes are up over 300-percent. However, aggravated assaults were down eight-percent and robberies were down 30-percent according to the same data.
On Wednesday, Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat pointed to violent crime, street racing and handling water boys as prevalent issues for law enforcement in Metro Atlanta.
“We want to have an honest conversation about what we can do better, how we can better serve and what that looks like," Labat said. "It’s about communication. It’s about sharing information. As you know, criminals don’t care what boundaries or municipalities look like. So this is a larger conversation around togetherness and us fighting crime together.”
South Fulton Police Department, Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, Sandy Springs Police, Brookhaven PD, US Marshals, Clayton County Police, the FBI, Georgia State Patrol, East Point Police, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, along with the Fulton County Solicitor's Office were in attendance at the roundtable.
Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said staffing is also a concern, noting his department was short about 300 officers to effectively police and deal with a backlog in administrative duties. As the focus continues to hit on recruiting, Bryant said strengthening resources in partnership with the Mayor's Office, bolstering community policing and being more aggressive in responding to violent crimes can all serve the city better.
“Repeat offenders continue to be a problem, recidivism, with people coming right back to do the exact same thing," Bryant said. "Community service, we think, will be our first initiative. No one wants to put a child in juvenile for trying to survive on the street. But when they’re in violation of the law and impacting citizens coming in the city, we have to do something.”
Sheriff Labat said new recruits could earn a $9,000 signing bonus at the Fulton County Sheriff's Office, and the agency is launching an app next month to better hear from the community on how police should respond to crime in the area.
Thaddeus Johnson, a criminology professor at Georgia State University, said the pandemic has made people more desperate. With many services cutting back, Johnson said it has left criminals with fewer options. He said police have been reactionary in responding to crime, but it's the community that can also help curb crime.
"You have to get the buy-in from communities," Johnson said. "This is not an issue police can solve on their own. You can’t solve crimes without the help of the public. But there’s such a rift right there. Who’s getting caught in the middle? Victims, survivors and their families. If we think police alone can solve this problem, you and our grandkids and great-grandkids will be having this conversation.”