Atlanta Crime Problems a Stew Boiling to a Critical Mass

It’s no secret that the issue of crime has been one of Atlanta’s number one hot button issues in the past few months. With police budget cuts and furloughs leading to decreased police presence around the city, residents have been reporting more and more close encounters with crime. The Grant Park slaying of popular bartender John Henderson even led to the formation of the nonprofit Atlantans Together Against Crime (ATAC), a small organization that has drawn quite a bit of press attention for their efforts to find solutions to the growing crime rate.

Atlanta’s crime problem was literally brought home to City Council President and Mayoral Candidate Lisa Borders last weekend. And it wasn’t the first time. Borders’ two homes, one in the Cascade neighborhood of Atlanta and, the one that was burglarized this weekend, a townhome in the Centennial Park area, have been burglarized three times in the past nine months.

A recent Atlanta Journal Constitution article framed the Borders break-ins with the larger context of Atlanta’s historic crime problems. According to the article, Atlanta has always had a higher crime rate than similar sized cities, and the past decade’s trend of urban gentrification has only contributed to the problem.

Further, a disturbing trend regarding the care of Atlanta’s injured former police officers recently emerged due to an investigative report conducted by local publication The Sunday Paper. In the story, “Badges, Bullets and Broken Promises,” reporter Stephanie Ramage detailed how, for the past few years, injured former police officers have found their necessary care delayed or denied to the point that they are suffering serious health repercussions. This video, released by the International Brotherhood of Police, brings the suffering home and raises even more serious questions about the City of Atlanta’s budget when it comes to public safety. Note minute 8. One former police officer actually urges current members of the force: “Don’t risk yourself. Don’t hurry up to go to calls. Don’t take unnecessary risks with the job.”

What happened next is even more surreal. In addressing the City Council regarding the injured officers’ treatment, Sgt. Scott Kreher, who is also president of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, Local 623 made the ill-considered remark that, ““I want to beat [Franklin] in the head with a baseball bat sometimes when I think about [the delayed workers compensation claims].” Now Kreher is facing suspension and possible charges from Franklin, who stated she felt threatened by the remarks.

Controversy over the baseball bat remark aside, it is clear that Atlanta’s crime problem encompasses a tangled web of history, sociology, economics, politics and justice. Perhaps ATAC organizer Kyle Keyser summed it up best in the AJC article when he said, ““Every mayoral candidate is well aware of the crime problem… But what this speaks to is that violent crimes, like home invasions, have no boundaries for race, class or communities.”

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City issue turns personal, Atlanta Journal Constitution