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With Slight Murder Rise, Atlanta Mayor 'Laser-Focused' on Crime

After a historically deadly 2020, Atlanta leaders hoped homicides would decrease last year. The opposite happened, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Authorities investigated 158 killings in 2021, one more than 2020 and the most since 1996. Police Chief Rodney Bryant said most homicides stem from disputes between people who know each other and noted that his officers can’t be everywhere at once. Blaming the mayor or police department for the spike in homicides, he said, won’t solve the issue. “It takes multiple entities to reduce gun violence,” he said. Crime was the central issue in last year’s mayoral race and is fueling a movement among some members of Atlanta’s wealthiest community to split off and form a new city in the Buckhead area. “Crime is out of control,” said Toni Moceri, a Buckhead resident who’s lived in Atlanta for 26 years. She was held at gunpoint for more than an hour during a violent home invasion and robbery in 2015.

At least a dozen major U.S. cities shattered homicide records in 2021, some of which were set the previous year when the pandemic shuttered schools and businesses .While Atlanta’s killings increased only slightly from 2020, they were up about 60 percent compared to 2019. At least 840 people were struck by gunfire in 2021. Among them was Georgia State University criminologist Volkan Topalli, who researches urban violence and regularly interviews active offenders. While Topalli was picking up potting soil at a Home Depot, an argument at the rooftop pool of a nearby apartment complex led to gunfire, and a stray bullet struck the professor’s arm, fracturing his bone. “Crime is not a static thing,” said Topalli. “Yes, there is a spike. But it’s been much higher before.” New Mayor Andre Dickens plans to hire 250 police officers by the end of the year and will install more streetlights and surveillance cameras. The first 100 days of his administration, Dickens said, would be “laser-focused on reducing crime.”

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