Violent crimes and property crimes are down double digits in Midtown compared to this time last year, according to a new report put out by the Midtown Alliance.
The Midtown Alliance, a nonprofit membership organization that includes its own Midtown Blue public safety department, reported violent crimes, such as aggravated assaults, are down 19% overall. Property crimes, including burglaries, are down 24%.
Homicides in Midtown, however, are up 171% after two recent killings. Arrests of suspects were made in both cases. Citywide, homicides are up 9%, with 88 homicides reported so far this year, according to the latest Atlanta Police Department numbers.
“An estimated 60,000+ individuals currently live in, work in, or visit Midtown daily. So far this year, only 16 crimes that are considered ‘stranger on stranger’ have occurred in Midtown,” the Midtown Alliance report says. “The overwhelming number of violent crimes in Midtown and the city involve people that knew each other or a fight that escalated.”
Marcus Neville, director of public safety and operations for the Midtown Alliance, said during an Aug. 3 webinar about the report, that his team recently crunched city of Atlanta numbers going back to 1990. The numbers show violent crime in Atlanta has dropped 77%, even though the city has grown by more than 25,000 people over the past three decades, he said. Also, property crimes are down some 70% since 1990, he said.
“Those numbers blow me away,” Neville said. “I actually pulled all of the reports to confirm all this myself and went through it. To me it’s unbelievable.”
Atlanta Police Interim Chief Darin Schierbaum was on the webinar and said Zone 5, which includes Midtown, continues to see the highest rate of guns being stolen from cars. He said officers watch surveillance videos of people breaking into cars, searching the glovebox, console and under car seats searching for guns. If they don’t find one, they move to the next car “because guns are so prevalent,” he said. Oftentimes, the thieves are gang members who want guns to commit other crimes, he said.
He also threw out an interesting number — that crime citywide dropped 17% the week after nearly 30 alleged YSL gang members, including rapper Young Thug, were indicted. That shows the clear connection between gangs and property crimes, he said, especially car thefts and break-ins.
Schierbaum also laid out steps Mayor Andre Dickens’ administration is taking to build up the police force. There are 147 recruits in various stages of training, he said. Also, in one week, 90% of eligible officers signed up for the $4,000 retention bonus included in the city’s budget, he said.
The mayor is also launching this year a “take home” program to allow officers living in the city of Atlanta to take home their police cars, the chief said.
Schierbaum also said it was critical the APD and the fire department get the planned public safety training facility built. Last year, the City Council approved a ground lease for the 85-acre, city-owned property off Key Road in DeKalb County. The $90 million facility will be built by the Atlanta Police Foundation, which has pledged to transform the remaining 260 acres into a public greenspace and urban forest.
“We are in the need of a quality training center to ensure we stay competitive to keep our officers and to recruit officers,” he said.
The controversial facility is dubbed “Cop City” by activists opposed to its construction. Their fight was featured this week in the New Yorker magazine. Activists say razing old growth trees on the site known as the Atlanta Forest and the Weelaunee Forest to build the massive facility will further harm the environment and the South River watershed. They also say the land should be saved because it is the ancestral home of the Muscogee Nation and where the old Atlanta Prison Farm was located.
Schierbaum did not address the controversy, but said until last year, APD officers were training out of an “outdated old elementary school where we no longer could use the showers.”
“We could no longer drink the water. There were more roaches in the hallways than there were recruits,” he said.
Recruits are now housed temporarily at Atlanta Metropolitan State College. But officers are having to travel more than an hour to train at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth County, he said.
“This time next year, we will be on the eve of opening a quality, state-of-the-art training center,” he said.
“Training is vital to what we do. Training brings about safe outcomes. It reduces the need to use force. It elevates our interactions with the citizenry. It builds the public trust. If we’re not training then we’re not serving you properly,” he said.