Atlanta Committee for Progress to help fight crime in the cityAtlanta Committee for Progress leadership: Top row: Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Alex Taylor of Cox, Delta's Ed Bastian; Bottom row: United Distributors' Doug Hertz, Georgia Power's Paul Bowers (retired), and Martin Flanagan of Invesco (Special)
By Maria Saporta
Facing a growing crime problem in an election year, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced Thursday morning the Atlanta Committee for Progress will support her three-pronged initiative to improve public safety in the city.
The announcement came the day after a virtual, pre-recorded State of the City on March 31 when Bottoms outlined several of the initiatives to address the rise in crime in the city, including the recruitment of more officers with police training to ensure the city’s public safety officers can best serve the needs of Atlanta’s diverse neighborhoods.
The support of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, a group of 40 top business, university and civic leaders, can be a significant factor in the city and the Atlanta Police Foundation having the necessary resources to implement those measures.
“Keeping all Atlantans safe is the top priority of my administration, and we welcome the support and resources of our city’s corporate, civic and academic leaders,” Mayor Bottoms said. “The ACP support will strengthen our One Atlanta initiatives in three critical areas by adding more police officers and cameras and laying the foundation for a world-class training academy to ensure our police force has the best tools and resources available to protect our neighborhoods citywide.”
The plan seeks to reduce gang and gun violence, street racing, auto crimes and nuisance properties while also improving recruitment and retention within the Atlanta Police Department, continuing police training and reform, expanding the city’s security camera network and supporting neighborhood safety planning.
The 2021 chair of the Atlanta Committee for Progress is Alex Taylor, president and CEO of Cox Enterprises. He chaired his first ACP meeting on March 12.
“We are committed to working together for the common good to ensure we continue Atlanta’s long track record of growth and innovation,” Taylor said in a statement. “These actions help our city move faster in fighting crime while also ensuring our police officers have the additional training and skills required to serve and respond appropriately to the needs of all Atlantans.”
The outline of the plan includes:
- Hire 250 additional Atlanta police officers during the upcoming fiscal year in an effort to beef up patrols in areas that have seen spikes in crime. It is also tied to ongoing work to decrease attrition, offer incentives and improve morale in the police department. The ACP members pledged to help the department with recruiting and retention tactics.
- Build the Atlanta Public Safety Training Academy in partnership with the Atlanta Police Foundation and the city’s philanthropic community. The mayor has asked Taylor to lead a capital campaign to seed the initial private funding for the project, and he has accepted. The project would require three funding streams: City of Atlanta bonds, new market tax credits and private/philanthropic support.
- Expand the Operation Shield Network by adding 250 camerasto fill in citywide gaps in a fair and equitable manner. The City of Atlanta has more than 1,500 security cameras, as well as license plate readers, currently in operation that feed into its central Video Integration Center. These cameras serve as a deterrent to criminal acts and help investigators solve crimes that have occurred by identifying suspects. The ACP will help with the funding to expand the network.
The timing of the announcement comes during a city election year when Mayor Bottoms is running for re-election. She is facing increasing scrutiny because of what she described as a COVID crime wave.
Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore has announced she’s running for mayor. And there has been speculation that former Mayor Kasim Reed, among others, could enter the race. Qualifying for the nonpartisan election is in August.
The ACP was founded in 2003 by then-Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin. It has served as a blue-ribbon cabinet to help realize the vision and priorities of Atlanta’s mayors. Election years tend to be awkward for the organization, which is there to support the existing mayor but also be politically neutral during an election so it can be available to work with future mayors.
ACP launched of the Center for Workforce Innovation at Atlanta Technical College, helped acquire the papers of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., enacted city pension reform, created the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership as well as the Westside Future Fund.