by Robert Z. Welsh
When Councilwoman Carla Smith was asked at a recent community meeting about efforts to stop violent crime in District 1, she said people should get together and decorate a wall to honor the victims. “Make it real pretty. That's an idea I could get behind."
We don’t need another memorial, we need action. We need leaders who will take our collective interests seriously as human beings, not just abstract “victims.”
The frequency and increasing severity of crime in District 1 is of major concern for us all. After attending community meetings and speaking to the people of District 1, it’s obvious to all concerned citizens that this issue has reached a tipping point.
Unlike Carla Smith, I have the political courage and tact to openly admit the obvious and propose real solutions.
A Tale of Two Cities: The metro area is home to Fortune 500 companies, start-ups and a thriving tourism and entertainment industry. The other Atlanta is plagued with economic inequality, shrinking income mobility, segregated schools based on income and race, low academic performance and a plethora of vacant homes: all undeniable and irrefutable causes to the alarming crime rate in District 1.
Disconnect in the district: Rampant open air drug dealing and gang violence has not been adequately addressed in some of the neighborhoods in District 1. What happens in one neighborhood affects all of us.
If we really want to do something about crime, our elected officials MUST balance the interest of the entire district. We are all connected.
Implement Operation Ceasefire: First introduced in 1996, Operation Ceasefire is an intervention strategy focusing on specific criminal groups. It entails a problem oriented approach involving community leaders, police and social services.
Fact: A very small faction of our population is committing a very large percentage of crimes.
With the help of police and probation officers, community leaders and social services would get an arena to reach out and send specific messages. These small chaotic groups would be confronted, face-to-face, with local representatives of law abiding citizens who will explain the effect their actions have on the neighborhood. At the same time, social services will offer job training, job placement, education and drug treatment among other life improving programs.
This offering would be followed by stern message from law enforcement: the violence must stop. Any specific group that resorts to violence will be aggressively targeted by our police forces.
Building this atmosphere of trust and transparency has dramatically reduced crime in Boston since implemented. And it will work in our District and the City of Atlanta.
Implement Predictive Policing: By utilizing advanced technology, Predictive Policing is culmination of anthropological and criminological behavior research. It uses complex mathematics to estimate crime and predict future hot spots.
Researchers base these studies on information that officers inherently know: offenders criminalize familiar areas. There are detectable patterns associated with the times and locations of their crimes.
Stop Overt Drug Markets: Buying and selling of drugs in the open in District 1 has been taking place on a daily basis for a long time. It needs to stop immediately.
Social Impact Bonds: All policies and programs should work together to help District 1 residents achieve their personal best. An average poverty rate of 35% is unacceptable and produces collateral damage that increases crime and reduces property values. The city needs to engage the private and nonprofit sector to implement the first Social Impact Bond program in the state of Georgia. We need a contract with the public sector in which a commitment is made to pay for improved social outcomes including reduced crime.
Robust camera system in residential neighborhoods: Our quiet neighborhood streets have become the target areas of criminals. The city of Atlanta needs to add cameras to the places where we live and our children play, not just commercial and tourist epicenters.
More police officers walking the beat: Placing police officers on foot in high density crimes zones has been proven to reduce crime in those areas. We need more of Atlanta’s finest walking our streets.
Random security check points and roadblocks: When law enforcement shows its presence, criminals notice.
911 Emergency boxes: We should feel safe to walk our streets any time. When faced with a life threatening emergency there should be a feasible way to call for help. The technology exists, but our current leaders have yet to take advantage.
Add APD officers: We simply need more police on the APD force.
More lighting: EVERY street in our district should be adequately lighted.
Many of our neighbors are at a crossroads as they try to decide if this community is safe enough to plant roots and raise a family. We must search our hearts and minds to engage openly and honestly about this topic. Everyone needs understand why crime happens and implement these realistic solutions.
On day one as City Councilman for District 1, I will begin the long overdue process of treating this socioeconomic cancer by legislating action on the programs listed above.
Mr. Welsh, a resident of Peoplestown, is a candidate for Atlanta City Council District 1 and is challenger to City Councilwoman Carla Smith, the incumbent.