Atlanta mayor says combating growing crime across city is her ‘number one focus’

ATLANTA — Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says the rising amount of crime across the city is “the number one focus” of her administration right now.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne spoke exclusively with Bottoms on Thursday, just two days after a gunman went on a shooting rampage, killing eight women at Asian spas in Cherokee County and Atlanta.

“Whether it’s a mass shooting or violence in our neighborhoods, it’s all senseless and the impact is the same: people who get up every day and expect to return to their families aren’t returning,” Bottoms said.

“Would you say we are in a crime crisis in the city of Atlanta?” Winne asked Bottoms.

“We absolutely are. Violence is a public health crisis. And we are in the midst of it. And we are in the middle of it in Atlanta and in the middle of it in this country,” Bottoms said.

Atlanta police say through March 13, homicides have increased 41% so far in 2021. Compared to a similar period last year, the city has seen 24 murders versus 17.

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Aggravated assaults were up 50% and the number of shooting incidents was up 54% though some crime categories like burglary had dropped significantly.

“We’re going to put more officers on our streets. We’re going to improve technology in Atlanta but we’re also going to address those systemic issues that are causing kids to go to gangs and are tearing apart our communities,” Bottoms aid.

The mayor told Winne that she can look at the gang problem from both official and family perspectives.

“The gang piece is significant,” Bottoms said. “My nephew was murdered in our city several years ago.”

An investigator told Winne that Darius Bottoms was an innocent victim of gang violence, killed in a case of mistaken identity.

“We are continuing to work with the task force, in the state, in the metro area to address the gang issue. It’s going to take more than me, more than our police chief. This is a bigger issue, so we’ve got to tackle it from all sides,” Bottoms said. “I have spoken with President Biden. And something that I brought up when I met with him in the White House was the need for us to have assistance to deal with the spike in crime that cities across the country have experienced since COVID.”

Bottoms also confirmed she’s running for re-election.

“You expect violent crime will be a major political issue?” Winne asked Bottoms.

“I certainly expect that it will be a major issue. As it should be,” Bottoms said. “We have a crime issue in this city. I don’t run away from that issue. I don’t run away from the responsibility to address that issue. But in the same way that I’ve led us through an ongoing criminal investigation into City Hall, a cyberattack the largest in municipal history, the social unrest over the summer and navigating this pandemic is the same way that I’ll see us through this crime spike that we’re having.”

Winne learned that Bottoms will elaborate on her public safety plan in her forthcoming State of the City address.

She said she’ll be embarking on a study to determine how many officers the city should have and she’s been looking at crime reduction strategies in Newark, New Jersey, where they’ve had some success with programs.