Metro businesses brace for another potentially violent weekend

ATLANTA — Local business owners hard-hit by recent crime are taking extra security measures as they prepare for what could be another violent weekend.

Atlanta police are currently looking for a man wanted in two brazen armed robberies targeting two women last month. He’s considered armed and dangerous.

Investigators believe another man is wanted in a crime that happened outside a Buckhead apartment building on Piedmont Road, not far from the Lindbergh MARTA station.

“A woman parked her car near an apartment complex there, was getting her belongings out of the trunk, when the suspect came up and pointed a pistol at her, demanded her property, took her purse and wallet and keys to her car, and left in the car,” said Officer Steve Avery with the Atlanta Police Department.

But the armed robber didn’t stop there. Police say about four hours later, he followed a second woman into a gas station near Atlantic Station, where he acted like he was a customer and watched her withdraw money from an ATM before he pointed a gun at her in the parking lot.

In the first incident, security cameras caught video of the man. He’s seen wearing a hoodie, skull cap, jeans and a white face mask.

Like many other major cities across the country, Atlanta is continuing to see a major surge in crime to start 2021.

“I’m desensitized like everyone else in Atlanta. It’s normalized and that’s what’s scary,” said Gracie Hamlin, founder of W-Underdogs animal shelter.

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The nonprofit uses rescue animals to work with at-risk children who live in her southwest Atlanta neighborhood.

Last weekend, Hamlin told Channel 2′s Michael Seiden that she witnessed pure chaos as thousands flocked to the city to celebrate the NBA All-Star Game.

On Friday, someone set a car on fire right on the shelter’s property.

“Only the evidence of what was left. It’s not even a Georgia [plate], it’s a South Carolina [plate],” Hamlin said.

She also told Seiden that she witnessed a shooting, and at one point, a reckless driver jumped a curb

and slammed into her shelter.

The impact damaged the inside of the building.

“Torn up blankets, flipped-over bowls and a lot of accidents. It was really loud for [the animals], and really scary and I couldn’t protect them,” Hamlin said.

Over the All-Star weekend, police investigated 14 shootings, including two that were deadly.

Seiden contacted the Atlanta Police Department to ask what is behind the violent crimes. A spokesperson responded, saying:

“In mid-2020, the City of Atlanta, along with many cities throughout the nation, began experiencing an increase in violent crime. During this same time, we were dealing with increased hostility toward law enforcement and a decreased sense of trust toward police.

“Atlanta, as well as many other cities, saw an increase in officers leaving the job, further adding to the challenges faced in keep our communities safe. Though many of the violent crimes we’ve seen are not random and involve individuals known to one another, the impact of these targeted incidents on our communities is tremendous and will not be tolerated.

“The Atlanta Police Department’s enforcement trajectory has been steadily increasing. We monitor our crime trends closely and are able to shift our resources into areas where they will have the greatest impact on crime. We have the continued support of our local and state law enforcement partners who work very closely with us, supporting our efforts.

“Our investigative units are engaged and actively working to identify and apprehend those who choose to resort to violence in our communities. We have some of the best investigators in the business who are extremely successful in identifying violent criminals and bringing them to justice.

“The number of officers leaving the department has slowed and our recruitment efforts are showing great results. We know there is much work to be done and we are committed to continuing our efforts building trust with our communities, increasing our staffing levels and continuing our efforts in putting each of these violent criminals behind bars.”

Seiden also contacted the mayor’s office about the spike in crime over the last couple of weeks. They sent him a statement saying:

“APD continues to work with our state and federal partners to do everything possible to make our city safe. Police issued 318 citations, impounded 20 vehicles, and removed several illegal guns and drugs from our streets. We have zero-tolerance for people who come to Atlanta to commit crimes and will not rest until this COVID crime wave is put to an end.”