Atlanta’s focus on fighting crime was the theme of the Buckhead Coalition’s annual luncheon Jan. 26 at the St. Regis Atlanta.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said crime in Zone 2, where Buckhead is located, dipped 14% in 2022. The number was greeted with rousing applause from the crowd of about 200 at the invitation-only event that brings together the city’s most influential corporate, civic and political leaders.
Dickens also praised collaborations with Gov. Brian Kemp and the General Assembly, Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis and other regional, state and federal authorities on new efforts to tackle gang activity and keep violent repeat offenders behind bars.
“Atlanta is a group project,” Dickens said during his keynote speech. “We are one city with one bright future.”
Dickens said a 9% pay increase for public safety workers and and retention bonuses helped put more than 200 new Atlanta Police Department officers on the streets in 2022. A newly implemented car take-home program for police officers living in the city has increased morale and reduced turnover, he added.
Atlanta is committed to working with Gov. Kemp and the Republican-led state legislature, including newly-elected Lt. Gov. Burt Jones and Georgia House Speaker Jon Burns, on issues including gangs, drugs, illegal guns and human trafficking, the mayor said.
“We don’t have to sit on the same side of political aisle to see eye-to-eye to work together. We have proved that time and time again,” Dickens said.
Dickens noted his work to create a stronger bond between City Hall and Buckhead. That work included locating a new Buckhead police precinct in the West Village. Cousins Property donated the space and the Buckhead Coalition and Buckhead Community Improvement District donated $150,000 for the buildout.
“I feel Sam Massell’s spirit in us and in this room,” Dickens said of the former Atlanta mayor and founder of the Buckhead Coalition who died in 2022.
“So we will do it as he would have done, collaboratively,” Dickens said.
Chief Schierbaum, Atlanta Police Foundation President & CEO Dave Wilkinson and DA Willis said collaborations with their agencies and other local, state and federal authorities are working together to lock up violent offenders to reduce drug crimes and shootings.
The partnerships grew stronger when Dickens took office last year after the tense relationship between former mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Gov. Kemp during the Covid pandemic and after the 2020 George Floyd protests.
Crime increased during the pandemic in every major U.S. city during the pandemic, but relationships with law enforcement agencies is making a difference, said Wilkinson.
“I have not seen leadership galvanized like this in our city under our mayor and our city council, under our governor, under this police chief, under our sheriff, our District Attorney,” Wilkinson said.
“There was a moment in time where none of these people were talking to each other. Everybody’s working together right now, he said. “We’ll make sure this crime surge doesn’t become the new normal in our city.”