ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10 ) — Mayor Andre Dickens held a press conference on Tuesday, March 29, 2022, announcing plans to create a Repeat Offender Tracking Unit. It involves partnership with multiple agencies to address the issue of offenders repeatedly committing felonies. Some community advocates are not convinced this new unit will fix the problem.
“Every week, 30% of the arrests made by APD are men and women who have already been convicted of at least three previous felonies,” he said. “We acknowledge right now that any system that allows a cycle of career crime, it is a broken system.”READ MORE: Environmental group's annual sunscreen guide released
The Atlanta Police Department estimates about 1,000 individuals are committing up to 40% of Atlanta’s crimes, and they’re all repeat offenders.
The goal is to stop the cycle and give agencies better access to data. Dickens said the establishment of the unit is unprecedented, in terms of previous efforts to address the issue. “We are standing up a dedicated office at 132 Mitchell Street here in Downtown Atlanta,” he said.
The unit will consist of two members of APD, one from the Fulton County District Attorney’s office, one member of the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office and a state community service professional.
“Today shows you what collaboration and commitment can do, and we are all very honored to be working with the Atlanta Police Foundation,” said Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.
“You will see jail numbers rise. I’m going to be perfectly honest, and in that space, it is because we are going after those who mean us no good,” said Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat.READ MORE: Wingstop could soon raise its own chickens
Activists like Devin Barrington-Ward with the Alliance to Close the Atlanta Detention Center say they’ve heard it all before.
“I’m not impressed, because I don’t believe that it has the resources that’s needed to really get to the core of why we have repeat offenders in the first place,” he said. “My concern is that we are going to use this as a license to fill up a jail that is on track to be closed and reimagined and repurposed into a community center,” he added, referring to the detention center.
Others, like journalist George Chidi with The Atlanta Objective, say the unit is a good strategic move, but not enough.
“Given where we are in the wave of crime, I would have expected we would be farther along than this,” Chidi said. “What are you doing to intervene before the violence happens,” he said, calling for more preventative measures. Both Ward and Chidi say the city needs more mental health services.
APD says the collaboration to share data between agencies sets this effort apart. “This allows us to show, not just the city, but the region, that we are taking a different stance as it relates to repeat offender,” said Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant.MORE NEWS: Target Posts A Drop In Profit, Stock Plunges
Bryant said there are plans to expand the unit beyond the initial five-member unit at a later time.