Metro Atlanta law enforcement leaders address backlog of warrants, morale during town hall

Law enforcement leaders in metro Atlanta addressed community questions about crime on an Atlanta radio show.

Three metro Atlanta sheriffs and one police chief participated in a town hall on KISS 104.1 Tuesday morning. 

The participants include Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant, Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat, Gwinnett County Sheriff Kebo Taylor and DeKalb County Sheriff Melody Maddox. 

Bryant discussed a decrease in morale within the Atlanta Police Department during the pandemic. He said the attrition rate has stabalized recently. 

"The most common conversation I was having were the families," Bryant said. "It wasn't them. The families were saying, ‘We feel afraid for you.’"

Bryant said, in some cases, he's seeing crimes sparked by social media disputes that became face-to-face altercations after people were no longer isolated. 

Labat said Fulton County is dealing with a backlog of warrants that deputies are serving. Maddox said her office created a task force to address a similar problem in DeKalb County. 

Maddox said there was an increase in domestic violence during the pandemic and she's noticing trends with criminals. She said 25% of DeKalb inmates are classified as mentally ill. 

"This is mental illness at its best," Maddox said.

Taylor said Gwinnett County crime rates in his jurisdiction are independent of Atlanta's and he doesn't believe the two jurisdictions heavily influence each other. Bryant said the "resources" sometimes bring people from outside jurisdictions to Atlanta. For example, people travel in-town to part at Atlanta nightclubs and bars, Bryant said. 

"We don't address the underlying issues prior to people committing crimes," Bryant said. 

Taylor believes divisivness stoked by former President Donald Trump's administration led to frustration that also contributed to a crime spike.

"We can't lock everybody up, we're going to have to change that culture," Taylor said. "We came out of a very bad culture for four years."

Some things changed over the past year and a half, but other things go addressed. Of the city of Atlanta's homicide cases, Bryant said more than 80% involved African American men. The longtime law enforcement leader said the demographics with regards to race, gender and location are similar to what they were 10 years ago.

"The race is just one variable, we have other variables to address," Bryant said. 

All four leaders agreed that reducing crime falls on more than just law enforcement. 

"We need the support of the community, the solicitors, the district attorney," Maddox said. 

Newly-appoint Chief 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.

In DeKalb County, CEO Michael Thurmond said high anxiety, emotional and psychological trauma and the widespread presence of illegal guns are contributing to a crime spike.

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