ATLANTA – Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Police Chief Rodney Bryant said the city council and police department are stepping up efforts to recruit police officers and target repeat offenders and known gang members.
The news conference at Public Safety headquarters comes after an Atlanta City Council public safety task force described an extensive gang presence in Atlanta. Atlanta police also arrested a man they believe shot and killed a bicyclist on the Atlanta BeltLine in February.
Dickens began by applauding the Atlanta Police Department, saying its homicide investigation closure rate in the first two months of 2022 exceeds the national average.
DIES PUSHED UNDER CAR ON PARKING LOT DECK DIES, CHARGES UPDATED
“I want to emphasize to potential defenders that if you think you want to commit a crime in this city, think again,” Dickens said.
Both Dickens and Atlanta Police Department officials reiterated their desire for residents to get involved and help prevent crime.
“I’ve said this before, that fighting crime requires us all to work together,” Dickens said.
“Repeat offenders continue to be a challenge for the city of Atlanta,” Bryant said.
GEORGIA BILL WOULD KEEP KILLERS OF COPS IN MAXIMUM SECURITY PRISONS
Several Atlanta-area law enforcement agencies collaborate to form a repeat offender unit. The Atlanta Police Department, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office and the Atlanta Department of Community Supervision contribute to the repeat offender unit. Bryant believes the task force will help law enforcement aggressively target repeat offenders.
Bryant pointed to the challenges the department faces in targeting repeat offenders, who sometimes make quick escapes and are found to be in possession of weapons.
gang task force
Gang activity is a statewide problem, Bryant said.
“I think gangs contribute to more than 70% of the crime that we’re seeing in the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia,” Bryant said.
Bryant said an increase in police personnel will help increase the size of his anti-gang task force, which focuses on known gang members.
Bryant said that some street racing incidents are beginning to subside, but indicated that it remains a priority.
The city is working with the Georgia State Patrol and implementing technological methods to combat street racers. The city placed cameras and license plate readers at the intersection of 10th Street and Piedmont Road, where street joggers defaced an iconic rainbow crosswalk.
As a quick fix, the city installed steel plates at the intersection.
“It’s definitely not a permanent solution and it’s not the ideal long-term solution,” Dickens said.
Bryant said the police department’s street races and loud cars at night aren’t exclusively a quality-of-life issue. It is a dangerous crime that the department intends to prioritize.
“It’s the equivalent of a person taking a gun and firing it indiscriminately into a crowd,” Bryant said.
Recruitment of new officers
Dickens said there are two new classes of Atlanta Police Department recruits in training.
“We’re excited to have additional resources, people willing to become police officers,” Bryant said.
Bryant said efforts to recruit new officers are putting the department on track to return the police force to the size it was before the pandemic.
Bryant said he submitted his spring and summer crime plan to the City Council, detailing how the department will allocate resources. Atlanta police could bring in retired officers to cover parks and the Atlanta BeltLine to allow current officers to increase street patrols.
Bryant said a nightly basketball program is one of several programs that could give minors an alternative to troublesome activities.
Dickens said the city intends to create an office tasked with creating programs, including money-earning opportunities and extracurricular activities, for Atlanta’s children and teens.
Backlog of criminal cases
Residents can see the cases that make their way through the courts.
Dickens said the system provides transparency and shows judges that residents want to see “good sentences” for violent crimes.
WATCH: LIVE COVERAGE FROM FOX 5 NEWS