Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields is responding to a letter addressed to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms that was sent from former council member Mary Norwood, who claims several residents are concerned about the increase in crime in the area.
"I regularly receive heart-wrenching stories from homeowners whose lives have been threatened during armed burglaries to business owners whose livelihoods are at risk," the letter, sent by Norwood, reads. Norwood, a former Atlanta mayoral candidate, is now the chair of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods.
The letter goes on to ask a series of questions, including APD's plan to address the problem, whether the city has reached out to state authorities to help recruit officers, and if Mayor Bottoms will hold a public meeting in Buckhead to "address this crisis" and answer the questions of concerned citizens.
"I know the APD has broad categories of monthly crime statistics that are shared with the general public. However, those broad numbers do not appear to correspond with the overwhelming anecdotal evidence shared by everyday citizens," Norwood wrote in the letter.
Shields spoke Wednesday evening at a news conference with other APD leaders about recent arrests they've made in cases concerning a string of car burglaries and vehicle thefts in the area. During the news conference, she took the time to address Norwood's letter.
"When I think of the risk that they assume every day, and then I see a letter put forward by a former councilperson that tarnishes the efforts of everything we're doing, I am just sickened by it," Shields said. "For the men and women of APD to become political pawns to some political shenanigans is disgusting and I have higher expectations of current and former public servants."
"We have no reason ever to manipulate the crime numbers, we own the crime we get every day," she added. "The Atlanta Police Department is being used as a pawn in political shenanigans and I'm not going to stand idly."
"I would sincerely hope to those individuals in the Zone 2 Buckhead space that are sincere about solving the issues that are plaguing the criminal justice system that they commit to doing actionable effort that can actually help solve the problem instead of engaging in inflammatory commentary on social media," Shields continued. "If not for me, the men and the women who go out there every day to risk their lives, stop with this foolishness."
Before Shields spoke, other APD leaders went over the recent strides they've made in cracking down crime in Buckhead.
"Two days ago, a significant crew was captured who had been targeting the Buckhead area, the downtown area," said Maj. Barry Shaw, the Zone 2 Commander. "They were arrested on the side of Peachtree Battle with a flat tire."
Just Wednesday morning, more arrests were made connected to a crime spree in Buckhead.
"During the early morning hours, six homes were broken into," he said.
Four cars were stolen as well. Two of the three suspects were taken into custody in East Point.
"Investigators are tying these suspects back to at least eight home burglaries this morning," Shaw said.
He said one of the suspects had 19 arrest cycles and another had 13 arrest cycles. Some APD leaders are also calling out judges and the county court system. Deputy Chief Jeff Glazier is over field operations and thinks that needs to change.
"As the person who is responsible for looking at crime every day, for coming up with strategies to reduce crime, we've been all aware of the uptick in crime we've seen in Buckhead over the last few months," he said.
He said they track crime hourly. They started an Auto Crime Task Force Unit and assigned it to Buckhead to help deter criminals targeting cars. They've also moved half of one of their tactical teams to that area.
Glazier said he's proud of the work APD is doing but wants to see more done from others: "Having said that, I can't be more disappointed with the Fulton County Criminal Justice System and the Fulton County judges."
The example he gave to explain his frustration with the court system was one of the suspects they arrested Monday; he has over 13 arrest cycles.
"He was previously arrested for murder, he served time for voluntary manslaughter he is a convicted felon," Glazier said. "When we captured him, he had three handguns in his vehicle."
He eluded that the court system shouldn't have been lenient with the suspects on some of the initial crimes he was accused of.
"Once we arrest somebody and turn them over to Fulton County, we don't have a whole lot of control over them. That is my biggest frustration," he lamented. "The system itself and how the judges continue to let these people out again and again."
As for the work APD officers are doing, Shields commended their efforts, calling others to act if they are serious about wanting to see a change.
"If you want to have a position of leadership, in this city then act it," she said.