A deadly weekend of gun violence in Atlanta is putting the spotlight once again on a dramatic increase in crime throughout the city this year.
On Tuesday morning, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms held a news conference on the city’s rising crime rates.
Since Thursday, there were 22 shootings across the city, leaving four dead.
WSB investigative reporter Justin Gray learned shootings were already up 50% this year. Gray also found there has been a dramatic decrease in arrests by Atlanta Police Department officers this year – arrests are down 40%.
Atlanta’s police chief told Gray that the department is working hard on the problem, including by partnering with the ATF to get guns out of young people’s hands.
The numbers are dramatic. Murders are up 60%. Rape, aggravated assaults and shootings are all up double-digit percentages across Atlanta compared to the same point last year, city data shows.
The latest numbers that run April 24 don’t even include this past weekend.
“These were people that had some type of involvement with one another,” Atlanta police Chief Rodney Bryant said.
He told Gray that the weekend’s shootings don’t appear to be random crimes.
Bryant said the COVID-19 crisis is partly responsible for the increased violence.
“We need our kids to be doing something other than just hanging out. We are starting to see that is problematic when they don’t have youth basketball and aren’t going back to school. We need to change that,” Bryant said.
Gray also pulled the latest numbers on arrests across the city. Atlanta police have arrested 43% fewer people this year. This statistic includes a 41% drop for the most serious charges, and so-called quality of life arrests are down 61%.
“Of course we should reform policing in general, but it shouldn’t come at a cost of life,” said Atlanta City Councilmember Michael Julian Bond.
Bond told Gray he’s concerned that changes Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms ordered to police use-of-force polices after Black Lives Matter protests last year have impacted crime fighting.
“Everybody watches the news and that includes the criminals. So if they know Atlanta is perceived to be soft on crime, they are going to come to Atlanta to cut up,” Bond said.
Bottoms pledged just last month to hire 250 new police officers and expand surveillance cameras.
“We’ll build back the police force but it’s going to take several years unfortunately,” Bryant said.
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