On Saturday morning citizens, police officers and city officials squeezed into Ormewood Park Presbyterian Church to attend Mayor Kasim Reed’s second town hall meeting on public safety.
Prior to the meeting Ormewood Park held a “Community Day” event next to the church where neighbors could talk to representatives from District 1 neighborhood associations, citizens watch groups, and other community groups. The Atlanta Police Department’s Community Oriented Policing Section (COPS) van was present, along with a few mounted officers.
During the meeting APD Chief George Turner talked about the current state of crime in Atlanta, saying that the city has seen considerable improvement in recent years.
“When you compare from the start of this campaign by Mayor Reed’s administration overall crime in the city of Atlanta is down 15 percent, the lowest in major crimes since 1969,” he said. “We’re making progress, but at the same time we want to encourage our neighborhoods and the members of the neighborhoods to call and see if we could come out and work on a collective.”
Turner also spoke about the measures that APD is taking to curb crime, including reaching out to communities with safety information, doing business drop-ins to talk to owners about how they can properly secure their businesses, putting more emphasis on community-oriented policing, and making more use of surveillance cameras.
Turner highlighted the problem the city is having with repeat offenders, saying that many of the people the APD arrests have already committed several crimes. He also mentioned the problem of vehicle break-ins, advising the audience to be sure that they do not leave any valuable items in their cars in plain view.
In his address to those assembled, Reed acknowledged that there has been a “spike in crime and violence” recently even though the overall statistics say that crime is down. He expressed willingness to reach out to communities, and voiced concern about the latest patterns
“I want you to know that I care very deeply,” he said. “I want you to know that we are committed to providing unprecedented resources, and I am not going to stop until the surge in violence in East Atlanta, or in anything we do that is impacted, is curbed.”
Reed also echoed Turner on the problem of repeat offenders.
“When a person is arrested and convicted multiple times, they need to be removed from our environment,” he said. “If you’ve got 30 or 40 convictions, you should be in jail for an extended amount of time to give the community a break.”
However, Reed also pointed to all of the ways in which he was trying to help solve the crime problem on environmental and institutional levels. He said that he has worked on opening recreation centers, invested money in child and youth development, partnered with the Boys and Girls Club and raised millions of dollars in private philanthropy, all with the goal of helping to reduce teen crime rates.
After Reed finished speaking, he began accepting questions from the audience. The exchanges that followed included a lot about what should be done about youth to correct crime problems. One neighborhood resident shared a solution that was proposed by one of his community members:
“Why not take these young men that are not gonna be sent to prison, how about have them come out into the communities, [to] work with us…”
Reed replied that it was an excellent idea and talked about his desire to create an organization that takes individuals with criminal records and puts them to work on city beautification projects, teaching them job skills in the process.
Reed’s next public safety town hall meeting will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 20 at Adamsville Recreation Center at 3201 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.