Atlanta mayor lays out recommendations to reduce crime across city

ATLANTA — Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and her anti-violence advisory council laid out their plans to combat the rise in violent crime the city has seen over the last year.

Bottoms said the majority of homicides committed within the city are not stranger-on-stranger crimes, but usually stem from domestic disputes and generally the people know each other.

During a late-morning news conference, Bottoms said the committee is recommending an existing program that aims to use community and neighborhood leaders to intervene in situations before they become violent.

The pilot program is already underway in Atlanta’s Summerhill, Adair Park, Peoplestown, Pittsburgh and Mechanicsville neighborhoods. Bottoms said the program is already showing results.

“To date, police have already seen a 50% decrease in violent crime in the area, and so we know that it works. The data shows that it works,” Bottoms said.

Heather Bonham lives in the Summerhill neighborhood. She admitted to Channel 2′s Richard Elliot that the surge in violent crime concerns her.

“I’ve lived in Atlanta since ’96. I’ve seen gracious plenty of all kinds of activity. It does seem since COVID, there’s been a pretty big uptick,” Bonham said.

Bottoms said funds from the American Rescue Plan will be used to pay for expanding the program.

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On Thursday, Gov. Brian Kemp criticized Atlanta’s leadership for creating  what he called a soft on crime attitude, leading to the rise in crime.

“A lack of elected leadership in our capital city is creating an anti-police, soft on crime environment, which is allowing violent crime to skyrocket and (which) endangers the safety and security of families across the metro Atlanta area,” Kemp said.

Bottoms called the comments election year politicking and pointed to the state’s overall rising crime rates. 

“What are you doing about the job that you have? Because I’ve been true to the commitments I made when I ran for mayor, but I can’t say the same for him,” Bottoms said.

Bottoms said Atlanta’s crime statistics are a lot more transparent than the ones the state of Georgia has put out. Bottoms also restated her contention that Atlanta’s crime wave rose from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Because our state was open, and there were many people coming into our city, we were starting to see an uptick in crime before many other major cities, and unfortunately what we saw was just not something happening in Atlanta,” Bottoms said.

Many of the recommendations mirrored plans Bottoms announced during her State of the City Address in March. Those plans include the hiring of 250 more police officers; expansions to the city’s camera network and license plate reader systems; and the addition of 10,000 more streetlights in the city by Dec. 31, 2022.

On Thursday, Bottoms was part of the first meeting of the White House’s community violence intervention collaborative. Bottoms and 14 other mayors from cities across the country met with administration officials to share best practices and work closely with the federal government to reduce gun violence.

The mayors will continue to meet biweekly throughout the summer, and monthly into the fall.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Associated Press contributed to this story.