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Crime Wave Hits Atlanta

Over the past year, crime has skyrocketed in Atlanta. According to the Atlanta Police Department’s June 5, 2021, citywide COBRA report, homicides and rapes have increased over 50% compared to last year.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has proposed efforts such as the One Atlanta:One APD Immediate Action Plan to combat the increase in crime. According to CBS Atlanta reporting, Bottoms has stated that the city has been working to increase the APD’s ranks with new recruits after a wave of retirements and resignations last year dramatically shrunk the size of the city’s police force. She has also called for stricter state gun laws and has blamed the lack of current restrictions for the increase in shootings in the city.

However, some blame Bottoms for the rise in violent crime. In a December 2020 statement, City Councilmember Howard Shook said, “Stop minimizing our concerns by telling us that ‘crime is up everywhere.’ Spare us from the lie that the steady outflow of our officers isn’t as bad as it is. It will take a lot to turn this around. But here, in descending order, are the three things we need to begin: leadership, some leadership, any leadership.” According to reporting from the AJC, a veteran investigator for the APD, who was one of the hundreds of officers who quit in 2020, said that Mayor Bottoms had “lost the confidence of the officers.”

The Buckhead Exploratory Committee is not convinced by Bottoms’ efforts either. This group is leading the charge for the formation of Buckhead City. The Buckhead Exploratory Committee has cited rising crime and consistent neglect from the APD as one of the primary drives for their push for independence. This movement has gained necessary support from state legislators such as Rep. Todd Jones, who introduced a bill last session permitting the formation of Buckhead City.

These issues recently impacted the Georgia Tech community when Diamond O’Neal, daughter of North Avenue Dining Hall staff member April O’Neal (known for her friendliness and saying "Everything is made with Love"), was murdered in Northwest Atlanta. She was the single mother of a seven-month-old daughter. According to the AJC, "O’Neal’s death marked the 64th homicide for the city in 2021, a 58% increase over this time last year". For those who would like to help cover the funeral expenses, April O’Neal has started a GoFundMe.

While Georgia Tech’s campus remains safe, GTPD Chief Robert Connolly has noticed an increase in activity in the areas adjacent to campus. The department partners with the APD to respond to threats that occur near campus.

Connolly said that he gets the support he needs from the Institute; however, like other police departments across the country, the GTPD has seen a decline in officer morale and manpower over the past year. “Like everywhere in the Atlanta metro, we’re hurting,” said Chief Connolly.

Head of GTPD crime prevention and campus outreach efforts, Officer Robert Rodriguez, urges students to practice “situational awareness” and avoid leaving belongings unattended. Rodriguez encourages students to utilize the department’s resources, including safety escorts and the LiveSafe app, where students can anonymously report suspicious activity and safety threats.

To increase safety and foster a sense of community on campus, Connolly invites students to “get involved” with the GTPD. The department hosts classes for students, covering topics such as self-defense, scam awareness, active shooter training, and crime prevention.

The GTPD also offers competitive-paying student jobs in areas such as outreach and information technology. “Without students, we’d look like every other PD. Students are what give us the edge,” Connolly said.

Officer Rodriguez encourages students to follow the department’s social media (@gatechpd) for safety alerts and information about job postings and upcoming events.

More information regarding safety tips, jobs postings, upcoming events, and classes can be found on the GTPD website. If students find themselves in a dangerous situation on or near campus, they can contact GTPD at (404) 894-2500. //

Christopher Kitchens


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