'This city has a real, real problem': Georgia House Speaker weighs in on Atlanta crime

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston said Monday that state lawmakers' plan to look into crime in the city of Atlanta has only grown more important.

"It is getting worse. There's no question," said Speaker Ralston, R-Blue Ridge.  

The speaker's comments come after a particularly deadly weekend in Atlanta where police responded to about a dozen shootings and at least four people were killed.  

In late March, Speaker Ralston held a news conference at the state Capitol to announce he had tasked the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security with holding hearings over the summer on crime in Atlanta and what the state can do to help.

"I could see it looking as a partnership," said Ralston. "That's what I hope we can get to. If we don't get to that point, then I think we can look at some areas that the state can deal with traffic issues. We can have the GBI called in and utilize their services on investigating some of the murders.  Some of the statistics that I've seen about the conviction rate of the murder cases is atrocious. I mean, we have a high number of murders. Nobody's getting punished for these things and in many, many cases they're not being apprehended."  

The committee hearings, he said, are set to begin later this month and could result in legislation or budget appropriations.

"It's important that we recognize that the people who live in this city are also Georgians. They're taxpaying Georgians. They're Georgia employees. They're Georgia families and they're entitled to protection and if the city's not going to do it, then we've got to find ways that we can do it," Speaker Ralston explained.

Over the weekend, Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown said the city needed to take a different approach to address the violence.

"We can't continue to look at gangs as adversaries in the city. We have to sit down and have conversations with these gang leaders to understand what needs to happen to reduce gun violence in our communities," Brown said.

Speaker Ralston vehemently disagreed with Brown on that point.

"I would not favor talking to gang members until they quit killing people," said Ralston.  "It's kind of hard to have that conversation.  Right now the only conversation I want to have with gang members is a conversation between them and a police officer across an interrogation table."  

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