ATLANTA - Newly-appoint Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said new initiatives by the department will specifically target violent crimes in the areas that have been most affected in Atlanta. Bryant believes gang activity and access to guns are just two factors contributing to the escalating violence in the city of Atlanta.
"One of the things we continue to see is the number of handguns with our youth, as well as the people who just shouldn't have guns in their hands at all. We believe that we have to intercept that. We have to do a better job of finding where these guns are coming from and cut that avenue off," Bryant told reporters Wednesday at Atlanta Police Headquarters.
Beginning Friday, the Atlanta Police Department will rely on more targeted help from a partnership with Homeland Security and the ATF to tackle the gun problem. He said the other crime target is violent gang activity--an issue he said will be the focus of Operation Phoenix.
"Gangs in the city of Atlanta really have their tentacles in every kind of crime that you can imagine. So, if we're attacking them aggressively, with more partnership and being more collaborative, I think this will really change the trajectory of what we are seeing. Operation Phoenix goes after our most violent criminals and even if they are not in a gang, we are going to be targeting that activity in a coordinated effort into the Summer," said Bryant, who served as interim chief for a year before the City Council approved the permanent position on Monday.
The chief said he's also beefing up the staff in APD's Video Integration Center so that there are more eyes monitoring the city's police cameras. He also plans to reinstate the use of a gunfire detection system called Shot Spotter. But the key to reducing crime Bryant said is putting more officers on the streets not just to respond to crime, but also to prevent it. To address the current officer shortage, he said more high-ranking officers will be used to reinforce the patrol staff throughout the end of August.
"We've seen an uptick in crime throughout our city and I want to reassure the citizens of Atlanta that the Atlanta Police Department will remain vigilant throughout this entire Summer," he said.
Bryant said the police department will lean on partnerships with federal, state, and local law enforcement to, as he put it, multiply the force. He believes centralizing units in the department will help streamline investigations and focusing on repeat offenders will set the city on a positive trajectory while the plan is in effect June through Aug. 28.
"We’ve seen an uptick in crime throughout Atlanta and I want to reassure the citizens of Atlanta that we will be vigilant," Bryant said.
Bryant said APD is increasing command presence on weekends and working with nightclubs to employ "extra-job" cops to ideally discourage and respond quickly to violent crime.
Bryant said citizens can help report crimes with neighborhood watches. The police department, including uniformed command, plans to engage with communities and hold internal discussions to address prevalent problems.
Bryant said the department's attention is also on youth. Bryant specifically mentioned water sales conducted by kids on busy streets that have, at times, become dangerous. Bryant said he's been told the city's youth entrepreneur program has had a positive effect in some areas of the city and each zone will dedicate one cop per week to a youth engagement program.
"When our youth don’t have anything to do ... they find something else to do," Bryant said. "They tend either to be the perpetrators of something of the victims of some crime."
Bryant said the department's video integration center is turning attention to popular shopping districts — particularly Lenox Square, Camp Creek Marketplace and Atlantic Station.
Bryant transitions from interim chief during a fought time in the city in which elected officials have turned their attention to reducing the number of violent incidents.
Growing the Atlanta police force
Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore asked Bryant to attend Tuesday's City Council meeting to share what is being done to reverse the trend of escalating violence in the city. Bryant described the restructuring of some units within the Atlanta Police Department.
Bryant said the department is down approximately 400 officers, but the rate of officers leaving the force has slowed.
Bryant said the department has shouldered increased responsibility during the pandemic since other public safety institutions have reduced operations for public health reasons. All this has happened while police have become the target of protests.
"(Police officers) had to be the constant under civil unrest, even when we were the targets of angered citizens," Bryant said. "We had to stay steady."
The city has a goal of adding roughly 250 officers to the Atlanta Police Department this year.
Background on Atlanta's new police chief
Bryant, appointed Atlanta's Interim Police Chief in 2020 after former chief Erika Shields resigned during the fallout of the police killing of Rayshard Brooks, is a more than 30-year veteran of the department. He first joined APD in 1988 and served as Interim Chief of the Atlanta City Detention Center prior to his appointment in June 2020.
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