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VERIFY: Is crime down in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood?

Here's what the crime data shows.

ATLANTA — Atlanta's affluent Buckhead neighborhood has more recently become known as a hot spot for crime. However, city leaders say they've launched several proactive crime-fighting initiatives - and it's working.

“Here in Buckhead crime is down in almost every single category. The only one that is still up is in shoplifting," Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said Monday. "Every single category is down and most of them are down by double digits this year."

11Alive set out to verify if the mayor's claim is true.

The question

Is crime down in Buckhead, except for shoplifting?

Our sources
Atlanta Police Department crime data

Dr. Thaddeus Johnson, Georgia State University criminology professor 

The Answer

This is true.

Yes, it's true, when comparing 2021 crime with statics so far this year, crime in Buckhead is down except for shoplifting.

However, a criminology professor said to be careful with the perception of what this data could mean. 

What we found

APD divides crime into nine categories for its data reports, including:

  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Aggravated assault
  • Burglary
  • Larceny
  • Auto thefts

A Cobra Report from APD's own records for Zone 2, which includes Buckhead, shows violent crime does appear to be down. In 2021, there were 11 homicides. 

There have been 10 this year so far, a decrease of 9 percent. 

Last year, there were 29 reported rapes. This year to date there are 22, down 24 percent. 

Aggravated assaults last year were at 223 and this year it's at 211, down 5 percent. 

The robbery count for last year was 98, and this year it's 89 – a decrease of 9 percent.

The number of burglaries and breaking and entering cases was 252 last year compared to 238 year-to-date. That's down 6 percent. 

Theft from vehicles was 1,631 compared to 1,375 this year, a decrease of 16 percent. 

Shoplifting actually went up from 418 to 489 which is an increase of 17 percent.

Other larceny dropped 20 percent going from 601 cases to 480 cases. 

Motor vehicle theft cases were 572 last year, right now it's at 438, down 23 percent.

Out of all nine categories, five were down double digits when comparing data from last year to this year. The same data shows shoplifting was the only category that had an increase so far this year.

Georgia State University criminology professor Dr. Thaddeus Johnson said comparing crime from one single year to the next doesn't give full context, good or bad, like having one less homicide than last year, with two weeks left in the year.

"As a researcher and criminologist, I would say if I start to see a change from 3 to 5 years, that it could kind of give us an idea that maybe something is going on to exacerbate or mitigate the issues that were seeing. It's the year-to-year that can be inconsistent and you shouldn't base policy on the year-to-year numbers," he said.

Johnson said nonviolent crimes can be fixed much faster than violent crimes based on city size and resources. He explained it's violent crimes take longer to correct.

"Most violent crime tends to happen between people that know each other and have some type of beef. That runs deeper and different than traditional street crime. That comes from conflict, that comes from a lack of de-escalation skills or not having coping skills," Johnson said.

The criminologist said that the numbers could be trending in a promising direction but it's how crime is perceived that will truly impact society.

"I think it's important to talk about the fear of crime and how oftentimes the fear of crime far surpasses the actual rate of crime," he said.

So yes, crime in Buckhead is down from last year. However, the data shows of the nine categories, only five saw double-digit drops.

Johnson said a consistent five percent reduction in violent crime over a three to five-year time frame is more realistic to boaster a crime reduction.

He said it's also important to consider the data used in comparing pre-pandemic crime to post-pandemic crime. 

Johnson also notes people don't always perceive crime properly, meaning one can see a high-profile case in another state that could make them fearful in own their neighborhood, which could actually be safe. 

Lastly, he said when comparing crime stats, whether it's high or low, remember those numbers don't change the lives that were affected by the various crimes.

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