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Atlanta mayor proposes $70M plan to reduce crime, violence

July 16, 2021 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta’s mayor is proposing a $70 million effort to reduce violent crime in the city, including hiring 250 more police officers, working to alter violent behavior and tracking repeat offenders to make sure they’re convicted.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Friday also proposed installing 10,000 more streetlights, cracking down on illegal after-hours clubs, and adding 250 license plate reader cameras.

The Atlanta City Council would have to approve the spending.

Bottoms, who has said she isn’t running for a second term this year, said those are the recommendations of her Anti-Violence Advisory Council. The mayor had announced some of the plans previously in March.

Crime looms as the top issue in Atlanta city elections this fall.

Bottoms wants the effort to be coordinated by a new office of violence reduction in the mayor’s office. She said the crime prevention office would coordinate efforts across multiple departments.

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The plan includes expanding work by a group called Cure Violence citywide. The group tries to intervene to prevent retaliatory shootings, meeting with people on the street and in hospitals. It also tries to encourage people prone to violence to change their behaviors and encourage non-violent norms in the entire community. Bottoms said a Cure Violence pilot program in neighborhoods just south of downtown Atlanta showed meaningful results.

Bottoms said $50 million would come from public funding, while the city would try to raise $20 million from private sources.

Bottoms told local news outlets that government spending would have to be shifted from other departments. The city has a roughly $2 billion budget, but only about a third of that is part of the general fund and easily shifted. Atlanta already spends more than $200 million a year on police.

“People will have to understand that for us to implement these recommendations, we are going to have to cut somewhere else,” Bottoms said.

But she said the spending is needed because “when our communities aren’t safe, or when they don’t feel safe, nothing else really matters.”

The mayor’s plan comes before a state legislative hearing planned Monday on what state government should do to reduce violence in Atlanta and a day after Gov. Brian Kemp blamed Bottoms for the increase in Atlanta crime rates.

“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,” WSB-TV reported Kemp said Thursday after meeting with the leadership of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

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Republican state elected officials have focused almost exclusively on crime in the city of Atlanta even though other Georgia areas have seen increases in violent incidents, including Augusta, Columbus, Macon and Savannah. A number of other cities nationwide have also seen spikes in shootings and homicides.

Bottoms repeated her contention that Atlanta’s crime wave rose from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, a claim Kemp has rejected.

“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 Friday.

Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said Friday that police have slowed the rate of increase in violent crime. He said police department morale has improved after last year, when protesters repeatedly confronted officers in the streets following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Rayshard Brooks, who was shot outside a fast food restaurant in Atlanta.

After Officer Garrett Rolfe was criminally charged in Brooks’ death, many Atlanta officers protested by not showing up to work.

“The morale of our police officers was tremendously low,” Bryant said. “We are beginning to see that tide turn.”