Fulton DA pleads with board for $2.7 million to fight historic backlog due to COVID-19

Crime has been spiking across metro Atlanta over the past few months. The Fulton County Board of Commissioners met on Wednesday to hear from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and others about it.

It was clear from the start that everyone was fed up with the issue rise in crime, including the commissioners.

"Crime is an all-time high. We're getting ready to be in a position where we may have to release murderers. This is not a third-world country, this is Fulton County," Commissioner Abdur Rahman told the board during Wednesday’s meeting.

Willis told commissioners her office is struggling to keep with the crime that is plaguing the streets. She said there is a serious lack of manpower and money to effectively fight the rise in crime.

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Willis brought to the meeting an urgent and straightforward message. She has had enough and is calling on the council to take action immediately. 

"Each represents a life from your district, each of them!" Willis told commissioners, pounding the podium in outrage.

Willis said she is fired up about the backlog of homicide cases that COVID-19 has caused. Hundreds of those, she said, she needs more money and more manpower to prosecute.

"But you want to know what I need? You want me to be specific, for that historical backlog?" Willis said addressing the commissioners. "I want $2.7 million. That translates into 23 employees that will focus on those cases."

The district attorney believes the state’s largest county has a gang problem and describes the spike in violent crime as unacceptable.

At least one commissioner agreed that Willis’ office needs more resources to fight back. 

"Give her the money, she's having to make a presentation. She's having to pretty much beg. And I take issue, if we're talking about crime, and making sure we’re going after crime -- the money needs to be there. She needs to be able to do what she needs to do," Rahman told FOX 5.

Willis is urging county commissioners to act, assuring them violent crime will be on the top of the mids of the voters this fall.

"And the number one issue for the mayor’s race and each of your races is going to be crime. You want to know why? Cause you can't even go to the gas station in our county anymore."

As Willis addressed the board, the room remains completely silent.  She said what her department and the country are dealing with isn’t a game. She likens what's happening is more akin to a nightmare.

Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat had a similar message for the board: not enough funding, manpower, or working equipment.

The sheriff spoke at the same meeting blasting county leaders for dragging their feet. He specifically blamed the government's finance department for not approving purchases.

He said one pressing need is a replacement for the county's aging and an unreliable armored vehicle.

"When I work a deal to get a [Lenco] BearCat [wheeled armored personnel carrier] so that I don’t have an MRAP [tactical vehicle] break down on Georgia 400 on a way to a SWAT call where a guy has been charged with killing 28 people, ends up killing himself. My MRAP is sitting on the side of the road," the sheriff told the board.

Sheriff Labat said he is also losing deputies every day to higher-paying counties. He said just in the past month he's had 15 detention officers leave the Fulton County jail to work elsewhere.

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