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APD interim chief discusses violent crime; Residents say city needs more than bigger police presence

Three men who grew up in neighborhoods with a lot of a crime said more police might help, but it’s not the only answer.

ATLANTA — Next week, the Atlanta City Council will vote on making Interim Chief Rodney Bryant the permanent leader of the police department.

Earlier this month, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms recommended that Bryant become the permanent chief, but the city council must confirm him before it’s official.

Bryant was appointed interim last year, after Chief Erika Shields stepped down

Thursday, Bryant talked to 11Alive about violent crime in the city. He said targeting repeat offenders and getting out in the community more is putting them on the right path to reduce crime.

Three men who grew up in neighborhoods with a lot of a crime said more police might help, but it’s not the only answer.

"We are out in the community, now that COVID protocols are being lifted. Our promise centers give us the ability to do that. I think you'll see more police officers getting out," Bryant said.

A group who grew up around Campbellton Road, an area where there’s been multiple shootings in the last few months, believes a bigger police presence may be harmful at times.

“When we see more of a heavy police influence, you usually see stuff like more road block and more traffic stop and more police practice inside the communities and that typically is going to create a disconnect between people and the community," said Keith Strickland. 

“The way it’s installed in a lot of those kids, they’re scared of the police," said Tyrea Matthis. 

To make a real change, Matthis and Strickland, believe it will take intervention in kids lives.

“Its hard for a kid to be something different when nobody is showing it to them," Strickland said.

RELATED: Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms names anti-violence advisory council members

Sean Dillard’s younger brother is currently in jail, accused of murder at 15. Had there been more resources, he said his brother’s life could have gone differently.

“When I was younger, it was boxing and that’s what kept me out of the way and keep me on the straight path and that’s what I feel like it more you reaching out to the youth it’ll be more better," Dillard said.

The chief agrees and said they’re open to listening to what the community needs.

“Civilians and nonprofits, bringing all of us to the table to come up with better strategies," Bryant said.

And many community members are open to real conversations with police, but they also said they need investments in the communities by the city and investments in the youth to prevent more crime in the future.

RELATED: Atlanta mayor addresses growing crime concerns, names permanent police chief recommendation

“Our kids are no worse than any other kids on any other side of time, they just have a lack of resources," Strickland said. "So if we really really care about being able to reduce crime, you reduce crime by investing in people.

"People not out here committing crimes for no reason, they not hustling for no reason, they not breaking in cars for no reason," he said. "Give them jobs, give them resources, show them that they are a part of the community, show them that they matter.”

The chief said they are looking at more partnerships with the community, like collaborating with Atlanta Public Schools this summer.

Residents said others things that could help that they need are parks, boys and girls clubs, and even access to counseling for parents and children in low income communities.

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