While Atlanta leaders and political hopefuls are working to rein in local criminals, a Wednesday afternoon car theft case proved that even elected officials aren’t impervious to what Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has called a “COVID crime wave.”
City Councilman Antonio Brown said he was meeting with a developer in northwest Atlanta’s Dixie Hills neighborhood about a possible affordable housing project when neighborhood association president Ben Norman noticed a group of children walking in the area.
Brown, who had left the keys in his Mercedes-Benz GLE, told SaportaReport he was “literally four feet away” when the boys — aged between 7 and 13 years old, he estimated — rushed the car and jumped in.
Norman, Brown said, attempted to stop the kids, but the councilman pulled the neighborhood leader away to prevent possible injuries.
While the door was still open, Brown tried to intervene and grabbed on while the driver — “He couldn’t have been older than 11 or 13 years old, if that,” Brown said — began accelerating. Brown said he held on for about half a block before letting go so he wouldn’t hurt the driver or himself.
Brown, who is running for mayor on a platform of “reimagining public safety,” said, “No amount of officers on the force could have prevented this from happening.” He claimed police officials agree. Rather, Brown blames “generational poverty issues” for driving the children to steal.
“It reminded me of the Lost Boys from Peter Pan,” Brown said, nodding to the young ragtag group from the fantasy story. “They were just doing what they needed to do to survive,” he added. “They looked like they didn’t have a choice.”
Police are still searching for the car, Brown said. If the kids are caught, and incarceration is the only option, he said, “I won’t press charges.”
Brown said he hopes the kids would be placed in a supportive program that helps rehabilitate them, but one that “doesn’t send them down a cycle where they can’t move forward with their lives.” He said, “I don’t want their lives to be ruined because of what they chose to do today.”
Atlanta Police Department officials told SaportaReport that the incident report was not yet available, and this story will be updated as more information comes to light.