Crime in Atlanta

crime_scene_tapeRecently, there’s been a flurry of stories in the media about crime in Atlanta.  Rightly elected officials have stated that crime is at historically low rates in the city. Residents of some communities, East Atlanta in particular, aren’t satisfied. To victims of crime, any crime is one too many.

Luckily for those interested in the facts, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports are available online. According to these reports, crime started decreasing in Atlanta during the late 1990’s and has continued decreasing through 2013 – albeit at a slower rate.

During the 2000’s:

  • Violent crime (murders, rapes, robberies, and assaults) decreased by 45%
  • Property crimes decreased by approximately 22%
  • The number of murders alone dropped from a high of 152 in 2002 to a low of 80 in 2009

Cutting violent crime by 45% during the 2000’s was a significant achievement for a city that, in 1994, was ranked the most dangerous city in the country by Morgan Quitno Press.

Beginning in 2010, crime has decreased at a slower pace than the previous decade.

Since 2010:

  • Violent crime has decreased by 25%
  • Property crime has decreased by 21%
  • Murders are up from 80 in 2009 to 84 in 2013.

Reductions in crime need to be acknowledged, but another record breaking strategy is needed to replicate those reductions in the future. With a larger police force we might redouble our programs in crime prevention using technology, promoting community engagement and leveraging law enforcement programs with mentoring in middle and high schools. Also, there shouldn’t be a conversation about crime that doesn’t include a plan to increase opportunities for higher education, good paying jobs and small business.

Crime in Atlanta is always a focus of every mayor, city council, and civic leader. It is always one of the top three issues during municipal elections. And it will never be too low to stop talking about ways to make it lower. We need to figure out a way to cut crime in half again, not just celebrate the job that’s already been done.


  1. Murders are up from 80 to 84 – you cannot turn on the T.V. in the mornings without a shooting having taken place somewhere in the metro area – not just the city of Atlanta. However, when a citizen soldieri s gunned down by a 14 year old while walking a bike trail, a resident is shot and robbed when walking home from a neighborhood pub and a bartender is killed during a botched robbery – all in the Grant Park, East Atlanta and Kirkwood areas, the perception by “John Q. Public” is that violent crime is on the rise and 2,000 policemen can’t seem to stop it.

  2. David Edwards says:

    No question we should celebrate the reduction in crime in the city of Atlanta. It is even understated in this piece: there were 247 homicides in 1991 in the city (with a significantly smaller population). Although no one wants to see the number of homicides go up, I don’t see why an increase from 80 to 84 is anything to be alarmed by. By any measure the city is safer now than it has been since the early 1960s.
    The perception issue has always been with us and may never go away. The challenge is that there is no “acceptable” level of crime (except perhaps “zero”) so the public will always want reductions in crime and will demand it from their elected officials, no matter what progress has been made.
    If you look at the pattern of crime reduction in the city, it is closely correlated with the turn-around of our intown neighborhoods. If there is a lesson to be learned from the last 20 years – and this pattern is reflected in cities across the country – is that turning distressed neighborhoods into thriving ones is what eradicates crime. In Atlanta, East Lake is the prime example of this, but you see it in neighborhoods across the city.
    The focus of our city government should be in developing specific strategies for those neighborhoods that remain distressed. This would include targeting public infrastructure investments and city services in areas of town where they can attract private investment in commercial and residential property. The Beltline is a great example of that, but much more could be done in areas such as English Avenue and Vine City where pockets of private investment are beginning to emerge.
    The size of the police force is not the key factor here. Crime reduction nationally does not correlate with police resourcing (in fact, the more police officers a city has, the more crime it has). What does correlate with crime reduction is public and private investment in neighborhood rehabilitation. That should be our focus.

  3. David and Gary,
    No argument here. The crime is a symptom.