Midtown residents packed into Grace United Methodist Church on Ponce de Leon Avenue this evening to hear how police and city officials plan to combat an uptick in violent crime in the community.
The answer: Putting desk officers in the field, putting more police vehicles on the streets, setting up command posts inside the neighborhood to engage with residents, public roll call of officers, more overtime for officers, faster 911 response times, making sure all surveillance cameras are operational, and a move to a “holiday schedule” starting Nov. 1 that will see more officers on streets all over the city.
“This is the largest police force we’ve ever had – 1,931 officers,” Mayor Kasim Reed said, noting that he wanted to send a message that combating crime was a top priority all over the city. “I want to make it clear that this is about all of us… about all of Atlanta.”
While statistically crime is down in Midtown, high profile violent incidents including assaults, car jackings and armed robberies have frightened residents. Police officials discouraged Midtown residents from forming their own night patrols, but rather to work with existing Neighborhood Watch groups and the police. APD said it would be working Midtown Blue, the neighborhood’s patrol force, to increase the eyes and ears in the community.
The mayor said getting habitual reoffenders off the street and in jail was the key to “moving the needle on this surge in violent crime.”
Reed said that 461 repeat offenders had committed more than 14,000 crimes, yet the court system keeps putting them back on the street. “If somebody doesn’t kill you, it’s highly unlikely they will see one day in jail,” Reed said candidly.
He said of the 461 arrested only 16 of them served one day in jail. “If somebody broke in your house tonight and stole your television in front of you and left with it and we arrested them with it, their chance of going to jail is almost zero,” Reed said.
Reed said he was having conversations this week with the Fulton County Superior Court chief judge to authorize municipal judges to give jail sentences and use space in the Atlanta City Jail to house the repeat offenders. “If you have been arrested 10, 20 and 30 times you are going to go to jail,” Reed said.
The mayor drew long and loud applause from the restless audience when he pledged to shut down the Peachtree Pine homeless shelter and transform it into a fire station and police precinct.