Atlanta Police pledge ‘zero tolerance’ for lawbreakers during NBA All-Star Game weekend

Despite pleas from city officials for fans not to travel to Atlanta for this weekend’s NBA All-Star Game, the Atlanta Police Department has announced there will be “zero tolerance” for lawbreakers.

While the basketball tournament will be played to a mostly empty arena – players are allowed to bring a limited number of family and friends – the city is still expecting a surge of visitors even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

APD Deputy Chief Michael O’Connor said this week that the All-Star Game was planned as a “television event only” and urged people to stay home.

“We know people will take advantage of this weekend’s events by hosting un-permitted and unsanctioned events,” O’Connor said. “You will be held accountable.”

He said anyone who chooses to take part in gun violence, serious criminal aciivity, street racing, or drunk driving will go to jail. ” Please plan to stay,  as you will be residing in the Fulton County Jail,” O’Connor said.

Maj. Andrew Senzer, the commander of Buckhead Zone 2  precinct, said the Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association told APD that “they received a huge bump [in hotel bookings] ahead of this weekend, so we’re anticipating a very busy weekend in the city.”

Buckhead, Midtown and Downtown are expected to be the busiest spots, Senzer told Neighborhood Planning Unit B at its March 2 meeting.

APD has canceled officers’ days off and scheduled them for double shifts, Senzer said, “to maintain a real robust contingency of officers within the zone.”

“There shouldn’t be any issues that pop up that we can’t handle in-house,” said Senzer, but noted that other police agencies are offering resources, too.

APD officers will focus on the neighborhoods’ areas with many bars, clubs and lounges. A citywide team of APD License and Permit Unit officers and Atlanta Fire Rescue Department fire marshals will be available to check businesses for compliance with licenses, permits and state pandemic orders, Senzer said.

The City of Atlanta’s Twitter account also broadcast the “zero tolerance” message, while Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has also told visitors to stay home on her social media, using the hashtag #WeFull.

“We LOVE having y’all move here and visiting ATL,” Bottoms said on Instagram. “But please, delete us from your pandemic party list.”

John Ruch contributed to this article.