By Collin Kelley
The statistics are jaw-dropping: 481 repeat felony offenders in Atlanta have been arrested more than 7,000 times and 72 percent of those convicted were given probation or alternative sentencing. That means these criminals didn’t do any jail time or were released on time served. The majority of them are back on the street committing more crimes.
Atlanta Police Chief George Turner repeated those figures during last night’s Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods meeting and told the audience what is being done to combat those statistics.
Turner said a task force convened by Mayor Kasim Reed specifically to target the repeat offenders was meeting every two weeks and was hoping to have recommendations by the end of the summer.
“If we could hold those 481, this city would be in a great place,” Turner said. “We might not be Mayberry, but it would make us safe.”
As an example, Turner said one career criminal has been arrested 92 times and had been a repeat offender for 50 years. “He’s now eligible for social security,” Turner quipped.
Turner said the task force has brought all members of the justice system – from law enforcement to the district attorney’s office – to the table to find out how these 481 could finally be put in jail.
One audience member suggested that there should be a scorecard to see which judges are giving light or probationary sentences to repeat offenders so they could be voted out of office if possible. Turner said that was a good idea, but it would have to done by citizens or business community.
Although it sounds like something out of the movie Minority Report, Turner said the Atlanta Police Department (APD) is using crime prediction software to show where crimes are likely to happen next and increasing patrols in those areas. He said patrol vehicles are also being tracked to make sure they are hitting areas ripe for crime.
The APD has also partnered with national and international police forces to share leadership, training and crime preventions methods, including Los Angeles, New York, the Israel National Police and London’s Metropolitan Police.
Turner said his department has also been focusing on changing its procedures in light of the passage of House Bill 60, also known as the “safe carry act” by the gun lobby or the “guns everywhere bill ” by its detractors. With guns being allowed in public places – bars, churches, school zones, government buildings and certain parts of airports – Turner said his department had been working to get ready for the July 1 implementation of the law.
Turner said the APD SWAT team was called out earlier this week after receiving a call about a person aiming a gun at another. “Under the new law, that will not be a crime,” Turner said. “We won’t be able to challenge someone or ask if they have a permit even if they are walking down the street with a gun on display.”