JONESBORO, Ga. — The Clayton County Sheriff's Office said crime is up in the county since Sheriff Victor Hill's suspension last year. The department posted on social media that people in the county, including jail inmates, are emboldened by his absence.
Has crime gone up in Clayton County since Sheriff Victor Hill's suspension?
Yes, crime has increased in Clayton County since Victor Hill's suspension, but this requires context.
WHAT WE FOUND
We've filed open records requests and have been digging through crime data in Clayton County to see if this is true.
Governor Brian Kemp suspended Sheriff Victor Hill in June 2021 and accused him of violating the civil rights of inmates.
The Clayton County Sheriff's Office made a post on its Facebook page stating crime has increased in the county since Hill's suspension.
“He had a unique style, unique relationship that I can't sit up here and say they had no effect, but what I think it is, it follows a similar pattern that we've seen across the nation," Thaddeus Johnson said.
Johnson is a criminologist and criminal justice professor at Georgia State University. He said crimes rates are much more complex than just who is sheriff.
“Undoubtedly, the role of a police leader is important in shaping the performance and cultural departments, but let's be clear, if the people under their command that gets things done right, they have more than capable people working in his absence," Johnson said.
Factors such as COVID-19 and more person-on-person crimes are the real reason for crime increasing, according to Johnson.
“I don't think the county unfortunately, is unique. I think this is a broader implication of what's going on with the pandemic," Johnson said.
According to Clayton County Police Department records, the county had 31 homicides and 828 aggravated assaults from June through December 2021 after Hill got suspended.
We compared that to the same time period in 2020 when 19 homicides and 708 aggravated assaults happened in the county.
That means homicides increased 63%, and aggravated assaults went up 17% after Hill's suspension. The context needed for this VERIFY is although data shows crime in Clayton County has gone up after the sheriff's suspension, percentages the sheriff's office posted are much higher than we got from the county police department. The sheriff's office claimed aggravated assaults went up 81% and that homicides increased 70%
Also, the county police chief previously said there's no correlation between the crime increase and Hill's suspension.