Homicides, rapes in Atlanta soar despite other decreasing violent crime: ‘Feels like “Groundhog Day”‘

on Feb21
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Atlanta is grappling with violent crime trends that have continued from 2021 into the new year, and local officials are working to come up with new solutions.

The southern city saw a 30-year record in homicides last year, when it had 158 murders compared to 157 in 2020 and 99 in 2019.

So far in 2022, homicides are up 43% compared to the same time period in 2021, with 20 total homicides reported this year compared to 14 at the same time last year. Rapes are up an astounding 236%, with 37 reported so far this year compared to 11 at the same time in 2021. Other violent crime, such as aggravated assault, is down year-over-year.

Police discuss trends

The Atlanta Police Department met with a group of local agencies on Feb. 16 to come up with solutions to keep their communities safe.

“We’ve been talking about the same thing over and over again,” an APD spokesperson told Fox News Digital, adding that the meeting occurred so that the APD could share information with bordering cities dealing with similar crime trends ranging from homicides to criminal street racing.

“So we all just came together to talk about what we’re seeing, what are some of the solutions? What are some of the things another department is using that we may not have thought of?” the spokesperson said.

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And while property crime is down 10% year-over-year — though there are questions surrounding how those crimes are reported — APD noted “a glaring recurring factor” in a Feb. 16 Facebook post announcing the arrest of several repeat property crime suspects. 

“[M]any of our arrestees are repeat offenders,” the police department wrote.

Deputy Chief Charles Hampton Jr. speaks at a news conference on March 18, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images)

Deputy Chief Charles Hampton Jr. speaks at a news conference on March 18, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images)

Between the four suspects arrested, there were 155 prior arrests and 30 convictions, as FOX 5 Atlanta first reported.

“No matter our tenacity and/or our success in making these arrests, we are clear that we cannot arrest our way out of this dilemma. Police alone cannot fix the repeat offender or crime problem. We arrest them, and we will take them to jail, but that isn’t enough,” APD wrote. “The entire criminal justice system and the community must work together for change to occur. If not, the revolving door will continue to rotate and the daily scene, which oftentimes looks and feels like ‘Groundhog Day’ (the movie), will continue in perpetuity.”

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The Department added that it is nevertheless “undeterred” and “will remain relentless” in its “pursuit of lawbreakers” and its mission to make and keep Atlanta safe.

The mayor’s office did not respond to an interview request from Fox News Digital.

Behind the violence

“There’s definitely a crime spike,” Volkan Topalli, professor of Criminal Justice at Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, told Fox News Digital, noting at the same time that the current crime rate is still significantly lower than what it was in Atlanta some 30 years ago.

A police officer stands near the entrance of a residential building, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

A police officer stands near the entrance of a residential building, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

The long-time criminologist shocked the Atlanta community last year when he himself was shot while he was out buying mulch in an area of the city that had been seeing a recent uptick in crime. Topalli had gotten caught in the crossfire between two groups shooting at each other when he stepped outside the store.

“[W]hen we have these sort of conflicts, and we have areas where there have been problems, we don’t pay attention to those areas,” he explained. “When we don’t address those areas … events like this will happen. It may have been a low chance that I was the one to get shot, but somebody was going to get shot.”

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While the circumstance was rare for Topalli, homicide and unintentional injury were the leading causes of death for Black males between the ages of 1 and 24 in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“That’s a very disturbing statistic,” the professor said. “So, it’s not just that we know where violence is concentrated and who’s perpetrating, but we also know who the victims of the violence are. And I think we need to focus on that, as well.”

The Bank of America Plaza tower, right, above the World of Coca Cola, the Atlanta Aquarium, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights tourist attractions in Atlanta, Georgia. Photographer: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg

The Bank of America Plaza tower, right, above the World of Coca Cola, the Atlanta Aquarium, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights tourist attractions in Atlanta, Georgia. Photographer: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg

Potential solutions

Topalli has spent much of his professional career interviewing offenders in major cities like Atlanta to better understand what drives them to commit crimes.

“I think most people have this idea that homicides and assaults are the result of robberies gone bad,” Topalli told Fox News. “And there is a fair amount of that. But actually, a lot of the violence we’re seeing during the spike…and that was there before the spike, as well, is really conflicts that develop between individuals.”

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He added that access to firearms can escalate conflicts between individuals that might otherwise be resolved in a fistfight.

More than 2,000 firearms were stolen from vehicles in Atlanta last year, according to FOX 5 Atlanta.

Human behavior patterns that changed during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, which Topalli described as a police accountability movement, as well as work and school closures, have contributed to the spike in violent crime not only in Atlanta but in other major cities like Chicago and Philadelphia. The unpredictability of those circumstances also made it more difficult for police to combat violent crime, he said.

Qri Montague holds a sign while marching following the guilty verdict the trial of Derek Chauvin on April 20, 2021, in Atlanta, Georgia.(Photo by ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AFP via Getty Images)

Qri Montague holds a sign while marching following the guilty verdict the trial of Derek Chauvin on April 20, 2021, in Atlanta, Georgia.(Photo by ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AFP via Getty Images)

Topalli believes that additional funding, not just for police and police technology like CCTV cameras but for community-based crime intervention programs and educational programs, will help cities like Atlanta combat violent crime.

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Many major U.S. cities implemented or strengthened their community-based violence prevention programs over the past two years since the May 2020 murder of George Floyd. Individuals who make up community crime prevention programs are oftentimes previous offenders or general friends of the neighborhood, which can make it easier for those experiencing conflict to seek advice.

“I think that it’s that’s been missing in the United States for a long time,” Topalli said of the community crime prevention programs. “In America, we tend to think of crime as purely the purview of police departments, and I don’t think that’s really… law enforcement can’t do everything. They need the community to be in there with them on these things. So funding some community-based efforts like violence, interruption programs, I think is a really, really good first step.”



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