“What reduces crime is being able to provide cultural resources,” Taylor said. “So people have stable places to live, so people have food, people have stable communities and safe communities. This is what decreases crime.
But leaders like Joyce Sheperd, a city council member who represents the Atlanta district which includes Pittsburgh, are more supportive of the police, saying a law enforcement presence combined with community initiatives will help reduce crime. . She sponsored a law allowing the city to lease land from the Atlanta Police Foundation to build a $ 90 million, 150-acre police training facility on the outskirts of the city. The city council adopted the plan in September.
Community Movement Builders and other activist groups protested against the construction of the training center from its earliest days. This angered city leaders like Sheperd, who disagreed with the organizing group and said their efforts were counterproductive.
“There were people who were against the police basically saying that we shouldn’t build a police academy… they came and protested outside my house on my porch,” Sheperd said.
The movement against the training center became known as “Stop Cop City” and became one of the most heated debates in Atlanta over the use of municipal funds and the role of the police in combating the criminality. However, given that the construction of the training center will likely take years, it will not impact the current spike in crime. What it will do instead, says Kamau Franklin, founder of the Community Movement Builders, is boost the morale of the city’s police force after the Floyd Troubles while negating the needs of the communities they are supposed to. to serve.
“It’s not just an argument” from both sides “about how best to solve the crime,” Franklin said. “It’s also about continuing a narrative that the police were sort of victimized last year. ”
The wave of crime linked to the pandemic is a major issue in municipal elections across the country. Atlanta voters will choose a new mayor on November 2, and the two most popular candidates, former Mayor Kasim Reed and City Council President Felicia Moore, have shaped their campaign speeches largely around their approach to the crime.
Reed’s familiarity with Atlanta – and his relentless focus on crime – has helped him rise to the top of the candidate pool. In an interview, the former mayor called crime “problem number one, two and three” in Atlanta “because there is absolutely no place in Atlanta that is safe from it.”
The pandemic “has caused people who are already on the margins in terms of income and employment to have to resort to violence or to turn to violence,” Reed said. “I don’t think ‘must’ is the right word. But I think it certainly influenced what is going on.
Increased font is part of its response. Its campaign platform includes hiring an additional 750 police officers in addition to revitalizing community initiatives. In early October, the city’s largest police union backed Reed for a third term.
“Anyone who says that more police officers don’t reduce the level of crime, it just doesn’t,” Reed said.
The optics associated with the rise of violence in Atlanta, a capital that is home to several major business centers in a state that has become a hotbed of national politics, is also in question. Reed’s adversary, City Council Chairman Moore, sees the crime issue as not just an outgrowth of the Atlanta pandemic, but a long-term challenge.
Rising crime, Moore said, “threatens our city and our reputation as a safe city and a place to work, play and live.”
His plan to reduce crime includes greater investment in courts and youth, as well as a promise to have a one-on-one conversation with at least 98% of the city’s police force.
“There is no quick fix,” Moore said. “It’s about tackling the root causes, but it’s also about taking immediate action that needs to be taken to make sure we have the police presence we need on our streets, ensuring that our justice system… works well and does not allow for rehearsals violent offenders return to the streets.
Whatever the outcome of the mayor’s race, Topalli says he hopes the wave of pandemic crime has helped reopen a much needed debate on the causes and cures for violent crime. And with luck, this debate will eventually expand the definition of public safety – an expansion “that opens up room for mental health, opens up room for public health, it opens up space for things like housing, education, community partnerships, ”he said. noted.