Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, homicide rates throughout the United States have spiked significantly. According to Justin Nix, an associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Nebraska Omaha, the increase of gun ownership, increased pandemic stress and current climate regarding law enforcement have all contributed to the increase in homicides worldwide. Atlanta has been notably affected by these factors. In a recent University of South Florida report, Atlanta has experienced the third largest increase among U.S cities in homicide rates during COVID-19.
Because of these circumstances, Atlanta’s city leaders have made it a priority to reduce violent crime. Mayor Andre Dickens, in particular, is working with the Atlanta Police Department (APD) to develop or strengthen initiatives to combat crime in the city.
Dickens recently gave an update on Atlanta’s “Light Up the Night” Initiative, which was implemented by former mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. The goal of the initiative is to add 10,000 streetlights to the city of Atlanta to reduce crimes and traffic accidents. In Mayor Andre Dickens’ 2022 State of the City Address, Dickens said, “Already, nearly half of the 10,000 lights that are part of this effort have been installed. And thanks to our partners at Georgia Power, by the end of this project, we will have 60,000 working lights across the city. Additionally, I am excited to announce the establishment of a Nightlife Division within the mayor’s office. This division will address establishments that have a history of high crime in and around them.”
On Tuesday, Dickens announced the appointment of Darin Schierbaum as the city’s new interim police chief. Schierbaum then introduced the APD’s summer plan for crime reduction.
“As we have done so far this year, and what we will continue to do, is focusing smartly on the areas and the people that are contributing to crime in this city,” Schierbaum said during the conference.
The ADP encourages citizens to not be afraid, but to be aware of the violent crimes currently happening in the city. “It’s happening in our houses with families,” said Deputy Chief Timothy D. Peek, in an interview with The Atlanta Voice. “We need to be looking into our homes, looking into our families and see what’s happening.”
Peek also emphasized the importance of citizens notifying the police when they witness violent crimes.“‘See something, say something’ are not just fancy words,” he said. “We need eyes and ears to let us know what happens.”
Along with their efforts to reduce violent crime in the United States, the police department is also looking to recruit new officers. The Police Executive Research Form reported a 5% decrease in the overall hiring rate of police officers in the years 2020-2021, along with a 18% resignation rate increase and a 45% retirement rate increase.
Another issue having a significant impact on the police department’s ability to do its job is a lack of police cars, which was brought on by a global chip shortage that has negatively impacted automobile manufacturing worldwide. The chip shortage has resulted in a shortage of available police cars.
The APD has also invited the community to join Connect Atlanta (not to be confused with Atlanta’s 2008 transportation initiative), a program that will significantly increase the amount of surveillance footage available to the police department. Business owners can provide this additional footage by opting to register their surveillance cameras with the APD.
“Connect Atlanta is a program where we are really and truly pioneering with our business communities and residents,” Peek said. “We can use it to the extent of having proactive surveillance.”