Opinion: We can’t tolerate gang criminals terrorizing Georgians

June 9, 2021

As published in: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

It has become all too common for metro Atlantans to wake up on Sunday morning to headlines like, “Another violent weekend in Atlanta area leaves 24 shot, 6 dead,” “Violence-rattled Atlanta sees another spate of shootings,” “Man shot, killed while riding in car on Georgia 400.”

Violent criminals are terrorizing our capital city with impunity, and they must be stopped. Local officials must step up – and request help from the state if needed – to end the bloodshed.

Our state constitution says it is the paramount duty of the government to protect person and property. We’re supposed to enjoy a right to freedom from fear. But that’s not the case today in Atlanta.

According to the Atlanta Police Department, violent crimes are up dramatically year to date: murder is up 52 percent, rape is up 67 percent, aggravated assault is up 34 percent, auto larceny is up 23 percent, auto theft is up 34 percent. The number of shooting incidents is up 41 percent. The number of shooting victims is up 35 percent. Yet total arrests for these significant crimes are down 43 percent.

This gang-driven violent crime wave threatens our quality of life and our economy.

Metro Atlantans must remain on high alert while driving to and from work, getting groceries, pumping gas, picking their kids up from school, visiting the Atlanta Beltline or leaving their parked car. Their fear is warranted.

Atlanta residents are crying out for help and receiving little to nothing from city officials. They’re not looking for excuses; they’re looking for solutions. They want to know the cavalry is coming.

And we need to support the cavalry – led by our men and women in blue who are putting their lives on the line to combat gangs. In a tension-filled election cycle last year, many on the Left leveled politically expedient attacks against law enforcement. Their lack of respect for the badge has emboldened criminals and devastated the recruitment and retention of officers. When you combine skyrocketing crime rates with fewer officers to respond, the result is more Georgians victimized, hurt and even killed.

Currently, the elected officials most responsible for keeping Atlantans safe are either missing in action or, worse, making excuses for gang members.

Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown recently said, 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.”

Let me respond with a resounding, “No!” We don’t negotiate with criminals whose gunfights strike innocent bystanders – like those shopping at Home Depot or Kennedy Maxie, a 7-year-old girl killed while Christmas shopping with her family.

As the state’s top prosecutor, I say we stand firm, we take action, and we fight the growing gang network with a better network of dedicated law enforcement professionals who want to keep people safe and put violent offenders behind bars.

“Our reporting shows that the public believes the city is losing the battle when it comes to protecting its citizens,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote in a Jan. 15 editorial. “That’s unacceptable for a city as important and influential as Atlanta.” The city is still losing the battle worse than ever.

More must be done.

In 2018, I launched the Georgia Anti-Gang Network to pull together local, state and federal partners and combat gang violence. We are not letting up statewide, and we will not allow what is happening in metro Atlanta to go unaddressed.

At our next Georgia Anti-Gang Network meeting, we will invite metro Atlanta law enforcement to discuss how to stop the gang activity happening across metro Atlanta and what led to this surge in crime.

While some Atlanta city officials seek polite conversations with violent gang leaders, our network will focus on fighting back. Atlanta officials might not take action to protect our terrorized families and neighborhoods, but I will.

Chris Carr is Georgia Attorney General.