Asia Simone Burns and J. Scott Trubey, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 22, 2021
Three men were fatally shot in a southwest Atlanta parking lot not far from Atlanta police headquarters early Sunday morning, just hours after detectives opened their 100th homicide investigation this year.
In 2020, Atlanta reported its most homicides in more than two decades, and cases are up again this year. The city did not eclipse 100 homicides until October last year.
Surpassing 100 homicides is a grim milestone that reflects an increase in violent crime that Atlanta police and city leaders have been combatting for more than a year.
In 2020, the Atlanta Police Department investigated 157 homicides, up from 99 in 2019. By June of this year, APD reported nearly a 60% increase in homicide cases. That pace has slowed, but the 2021 homicide count is ahead of last year when the 100th homicide was recorded on Oct. 1, 2020, crime data shows.
A spokesman for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms did not respond to a message seeking comment about the triple homicide.
Violent crime has emerged as one of the top issues of the mayoral campaign.
The major candidates to succeed Bottoms, who is not running for reelection, expressed sorrow for the loved ones of the slain and said urgent action is needed.
Several of the candidates said expanding the police force is important, but that issues go far deeper than a shortage of sworn officers.
Councilman Antonio Brown said many homicides involve victims and assailants who know one another, and conflict resolution is essential to prevent altercations from escalating into murders.
Brown has proposed a Department of Public Safety and Wellness to respond to non-emergency calls and provide care and services to residents 24 hours a day, a substantial expansion of the city’s current Policing Alternatives & Diversion Initiative (PAD).
Answers are not as simple as hiring hundreds of officers to restore the force to 2,000, Brown said. He said that level of law enforcement staffing did not solve issues facing the city and he would rather see “community policing” that gets officers out of their vehicles and onto the streets where they can learn their communities.
“Militarizing Atlanta police is not going to solve the problem,” Brown said.
Brown is currently under federal indictment for charges including wire fraud involving alleged acts that occurred prior to his election as a councilman. He has pleaded not guilty.
Sharon Gay, a lawyer and former top city official under former Mayor Bill Campbell, said in a statement “we cannot accept the horrendous wave of homicides in our city as a new normal.” She has pledged an enlarged and better-trained police force and a crackdown on code violators, including “unlicensed or improperly licensed bars and music venues.”