Certain crimes in Atlanta demand prosecution.
This was the message that Georgia State Representative Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) conveyed Wednesday at a House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. Committee members met to discuss Atlanta’s soaring crime rate.
Committee members met at Atlanta’s Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Al Bartell, who identified as a public engagement stakeholder for neighborhoods and communities, spoke during the meeting’s public comment portion. He said he and other Atlanta residents have long worried over the uptick in crime.
“Our concern is that now there has been some incidents of violence in Buckhead that there all of a sudden seems to be a plethora of interest in violence and violence prevention,” Bartell told committee members.
Bartell asked committee members not to let Atlanta’s high-crime rate “become a justification for hard-edge massive incarceration.”
Several audience members applauded.
Powell stepped in to offer his own perspective.
“We have blatant disrespect for law, and a lot of that is being done because of the social networking or the social failures. People are out of work. People don’t have a home. There are homeless people and drug abuse,” Powell said.
“A lot of these are actions and consequences that have created those problems. Somebody does drugs then they suffer the consequences and that becomes another issue.”
Powell told Bartell that no one in the state government wants mass incarceration.
“What we would like to see is the enforcement of laws. There’s a difference between somebody that gets locked up for a bag of pot or someone who continues to break in cars or someone who breaks into somebody’s house or the crime of shooting up the neighborhood,” Powell said.
“I am a believer that actions produce consequences. Sooner or later, people must understand that certain crimes merit incarceration.”
Members of Atlanta’s law enforcement community also appeared before Wednesday’s committee. They said police officers patrolled the streets at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic even as county officials had closed the jails. Law enforcement officers also said thieves have ensured that no one in Atlanta feels safe. They also said state officials must address substance abuse and mental health issues.
Committee members met earlier this month, also to discuss Atlanta’s crime issues. Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia (PACGA) Executive Director Pete Skandalakis told them at the time that if Georgia officials want to reverse soaring crime rates then they must keep more experienced prosecutors on the job. He also said they must also contain the spread of COVID-19 so jails can hold more prisoners.
Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) last month proposed spending $3 million in additional state law enforcement resources to fight Atlanta’s worsening crime problem. Ralston said state legislators will consider his proposals during the 2022 legislative sessions appropriations process.
– – –