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Two commissions to attack Atlanta crime

Yet one has held no meetings

ATLANTA — Atlanta’s rising crime rate is getting some predictable attention from politicians – but their ability to actually combat it may be limited, according to one politician who is exiting after twenty years. 

The city’s homicide and aggravated assault rates rose sharply in 2020 – with data indicating this year could be as bad or worse.

In March, Georgia House Speaker Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) announced in a letter to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms that the House public safety committee will hold hearings on Atlanta’s crime spike “out of concern for the safety of Atlanta’s residents and visitors.”

Six weeks later, that commission has held no meetings.

This week, the Atlanta city council advanced a resolution to create a citizens committee to try to find some solutions.

“It’s a commission to look at public safety,” said councilwoman Carla Smith. “I think right now we’re all grasping at straws because crime is awful.  I mean it’s bad out there.”

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Smith cosponsored the Atlanta resolution – yet has low expectations for crime study committees.

“I think people are out there looking for a magic answer to crime,” Smith told 11Alive News Thursday.

Smith has been a city council member for twenty years – and announced last weekend she won’t run again this year.  She’s had been an emergency room nurse in Texas before moving to Atlanta in the early 90s.

A decade ago, Smith was among those in Atlanta who watched the city’s crime rate drop year after year as the economy started to boom – and is now among those who think the pandemic is a big part of the reason crime has spiked.

“It’s just time for a change,” Smith said of her retirement. She represents portions of southeast Atlanta including Grant Park. Her district is now bisected by the Atlanta Beltline.  Smith, who entered office at the same time as Mayor Shirley Franklin, says Franklin attended the first Beltline public meeting, held in Smith’s district at Zoo Atlanta.