After yet another weekend filled with reports of violent crime, Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said he’s taking action to address the issue.
“One of the things we continue to see is the proliferation of weapons on our streets,” he said. “That is one of the most driving incidents that we are having as it relates to aggravated assaults and homicides. So to counter that one of the things we’re doing is going to our overall plan to address it. I’m immediately restructuring our Atlanta Police Department.”
Bryant announced the changes at the Atlanta City Council’s June 7 meeting, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also at the meeting, Bryant was approved by the council as the permanent police chief. He was appointed as the interim chief in June 2020, and on May 4, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced he was being named the department’s permanent leader.
Bryant’s plan includes centralizing the investigation unit, which will allow the department to form a domestic violence unit.
“Domestic violence is increasing as well as contributing to some of the violence we’re seeing,” he said.
The chief also plans to expand the department’s gun assault unit.
“This will allow us to respond more in a homicide (investigation) fashion,” he said. “We believe that this reorganization of this unit will give us the ability to work more aggravated assault cases more thoroughly, more efficiently and take more individuals off of the streets more rapidly.
Bryant also plans to expand the department’s license and permits unit and work with the Fulton County Health Department on that issue.
“We recognize many of the night (crime) activities we are seeing, especially as they relate to violence, they’re really slipping through the cracks due to the policy that allows (nightclubs) to operate,” he said. “Many of them apply for restaurant licenses and then operate as nightclubs. … If they’re going to operate as a restaurant, they have to be inspected as a restaurant. We believe this unit will have the ability to shut down these restaurants’ locations more rapidly than what we’re able to do.”
Bryant also plans to shift some of the department’s administrative staff to patrol duties to provide more boots on the ground. With the police down about 400 officers from the 2,000 it had during the Kasim Reed administration, it’s trying to find creative ways to increase staffing as it tries to fill open positions.
“We (plan to) have more people in more locations based on the intelligence that provides us (on) where we’re seeing increases in crime,” Bryant said.
Through the department’s Operation Phoenix program, he’s also working with the FBI to identify 24 violent offenders to arrest in a plan that’s expanding to the whole metro area.
Regarding guns, the police will work with the ATF to try to stop them from flowing into Atlanta.
“Additionally, our own Apex Unit will be working with them more closely to go after straw purchasers,” Bryant said. “A number of guns continue to be stolen, but a greater portion are not stolen. These guns are actually legally purchased. We have to find out who’s making these purchases and who’s getting them into the hands of these individuals.”
Through May 29, the city has had 57 reported murders this year, an increase of 63% compared to the same period in 2020, according to statistics provided on the police’s website. The city has also seen an increase in rapes (108%), robberies (2%), aggravated assaults (29%), larcenies/from auto (27%) and auto thefts (36%). Only burglaries (34%) and larcenies/from other (3%) have decreased so far this year.
The previous weekend included separate incidents where one man was murdered and three joggers were shot, with one being hit, all in in Buckhead, plus other serious crimes elsewhere in the city.
“Because of what occurred over the weekend and has happened in previous weekends, as you know, everyone is very weary,” Felicia Moore, the council’s president and a mayoral candidate, said right before Bryant spoke. “The public is scared. There’s an unease. People are feeling unsafe. People can’t jog. They can’t shop. They can’t get gas at the gas station.”
Also at the meeting, as a way to add more police officers to the force, the council approved an ordinance requesting the city’s parks and recreation and police departments conduct a joint study to determine funding for the number of retired officers that would be needed through the Recapture Program to patrol Atlanta parks.