Atlanta could face intervention from state police authorities to help crack down on crime in Georgia’s capital city amid a spate of violent and property crimes over the past year.
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, on Thursday called for a General Assembly panel to study Atlanta’s crime problem over the summer and decide whether “state intervention may be necessary.”
“In the past I have resisted calls for state oversight of a city’s operations,” Ralston said at a news conference. “But this pandemic of lawlessness has now reached crisis proportions.”
Ralston informed Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of the legislature’s intentions in a letter sent Thursday. Bottoms’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bottoms recently called fighting crime her “No.-1 focus” and plans to look at how many police officers the city needs, according to an interview with WSB-TV. She has also pledged to address “systemic issues” that attract children to criminal gangs.
“It’s going to take more than me, more than our police chief,” Bottoms told WSB-TV last week. “This is a bigger issue, so we’ve got to tackle it from all sides.”
Ralston’s announcement comes in the wake of mass shootings at three metro-Atlanta spas that left eight people dead earlier this month. Those murders are on top of a total of 24 people killed in homicides so far this year in Atlanta through March 13, up 41% from the same time last year.
Atlanta saw 157 murders in 2020, marking a steep increase from previous years. Assaults and auto thefts are also on the rise, contributing to a crime situation in Atlanta that Ralston said the city “doesn’t seem to be able to bring under control.”
Rep. J Collins, R-Villa Rica, who chairs the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, has been tapped to hold hearings on state intervention in Atlanta crime this summer. Collins said “all possibilities are on the table” as to who would sit on a study committee for the hearings.
Ralston added potential solutions could include increasing state law enforcement personnel in Atlanta including state troopers or other resources.
“There’s any number of forms that this could take,” he said.
The possible future intervention also comes as state lawmakers look to put strict limits on city and county governments against reducing local police budgets and make it a felony for protesters to damage property or injure others during demonstrations.
Beau Evans is a writer for Capitol Beat News Service