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Atlanta Police ‘all hands on deck’ to protect big holiday weekend crowds

Atlanta Police officers are working 12-hour shifts this long weekend, as the city attracts the biggest crowds since before the pandemic.

ATLANTA — It is “all-hands-on-deck” this holiday weekend for Atlanta Police, working to try to head off another potentially violent weekend across the city.

But on top of all of that, APD is activating its plan to protect the huge holiday crowds that are amassing, from all over Georgia and beyond, for fireworks and the AJC Peachtree Road Race.

“We’re going to have a lot of people on the street, a lot of officers on the street looking for criminal activity,” said Atlanta Police Sgt. John Chafee on Friday. “We want people to come out, enjoy the city, have a good time. But we want people to be safe while they’re out here.”

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Sgt. Chafee said officers are on 12-hour shifts through Monday to provide extra coverage.

APD’s Homeland Security Unit is ready to move in if there are any specific threats to the city and to the crowds.

“We stay on top of looking at all types of information coming in,” Chafee said, “intelligence, looking for these types of threats.”

Along the route of Monday morning’s road race, MARTA buses and city dump trucks will soon move into place at key intersections to secure the runners.

APD’s Video Integration Center is taking in live video feeds from across the city. There are more surveillance cameras than ever before.

And now officers can tap into the video from their cars, using the system called FUSUS, to try to get to crime victims faster, and to reach crimes still in progress.

“It allows more eyes to be out there looking at things going on throughout the city,” Chafee said. “And it helps us to be able to pull video pretty quickly from a crime scene and get that evidence that we need. It’s something that has been very beneficial to us.”

Jen LeMaster of the Georgia World Congress Center said Friday she expects the Sunday night fireworks show at Centennial Olympic Park — just that event, alone —  will draw some of the city’s biggest crowds in Atlanta since before the pandemic.

“Most community events are drawing twenty to thirty percent more because people want to get out and they want to gather, and honestly we have a great program,” LeMasters said.

And Atlanta Police are warning people against celebratory gunfire.

“You will be arrested if we catch you doing that,” Chafee said. “It’s something that is extremely dangerous. What goes up must come down. We do get cases where those rounds do come down and injure people, or worse.”

Chafee said spur-of-the-moment shootings stemming from individuals who are simply angry are increasing across the city, “simple arguments that often end in gunfire, that end in somebody being shot or somebody being killed."

"And it’s something that’s difficult to patrol against or for us to fight.... What’s difficult is when someone gets upset over something minor.... More and more people are choosing to resort to violence," Chafee said. "It’s something that’s certainly troubling to us.... People need to do a better job with managing their arguments, managing their emotions. And there needs to be a point where, obviously, you just walk away,” without firing a gun.

Much of the extra security this weekend is already as visible as possible, on purpose; much of it is not visible, on purpose.

Police are hoping that everyone watches out for everyone else.

“If you see something suspicious,” Chafee said, “or something that doesn’t fit, go ahead and call 911.”

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