Crime is a hot topic right now in House District 54 and across the state. Our community is in Atlanta Police Department Zone 2, and there is some good news to report here – most crime is actually down over this time last year. However, aggravated assaults are on the rise.
Managing the APD and enforcing the law is predominately a city issue, so what can a state legislator do to effectively address crime in our community?
First, you need to know that I support pay increases for the APD and investing in additional, ongoing training for our police officers. This is a need specific to the City of Atlanta, and I would urge my counterparts on City Council to consider the opportunity to support law enforcement in this way.
At a state level, we can work to better support law enforcement and make their jobs easier. Daily, police officers are called to address problems rooted in mental health crises, homelessness, addiction or unsupervised youth. Each of these challenges can be addressed with better state funding for mental health services, addiction treatment services, homelessness outreach and affordable housing, and education and outside-of-school programs. With fully funded social services programs addressing these problems, police officers can better focus on issues of crime in our community.
The goal is never to put more people in jail. The goal is to prevent crime from happening in the first place. State legislators can help with that, too. Do you know how city planners forecast the needs for prisons 20 years in the future? They look at a community’s 3rd grade literacy level. The top predictor of future crime is how well we’re educating our children. In 2020, the Republican-led legislature slashed public education funding by almost $1B. If we don’t move quickly to restore that funding, then we are opening the door for increased crime ten years from now. Fighting crime begins by preventing crime in the first place.
The state can invest in gang intervention programs to identify young people being enticed by gang activity and diverting them to more productive pursuits. The state can fund job training and workforce development programs to provide more economic stability in low income communities. The state can fund accountability courts, drug courts and veterans’ courts to specifically address underlying issues with crime and prevent criminal behavior from becoming an ongoing cycle.
Finally, the state can move to increase trust between the community and its police officers by holding law enforcement accountable. I support universal use of body cameras to provide evidence in disputed cases of resisting arrest or police brutality. I ask that we re-examine laws that seem to contribute bad behavior, like no-knock warrants, citizen’s arrest laws and qualified immunity.