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Atlanta crime: ‘We’re all seeing something different that’s a little more frightening’

By David Pendered

Open defecation, a homeless man chasing little girls near a pre-school in Southwest Atlanta, and potential Chicagoland thugs marking territory in Atlanta were among the concerns discussed Monday during the Atlanta City Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting.

Homeless, urban camper

A telltale sign of a homeless person, or an urban camper, is napping in the daytime on a public bench, such as at this MARTA bus stop on Northside Drive. Credit: David Pendered

This is in addition to reports of “really extreme behavior” outside a nightclub, potential youth gang activity and an Atlanta Police Department that is 423 officers short of its authorized strength of 2,033 officers, topics that also were discussed.

All this is in addition to discussion of the shooting Sunday of a security guard at Lenox Square. Two 15-year-olds have been charged with attempted murder and other counts in connection with the shooting that left the guard critically injured.

“I wish I had an answer,” Todd Coyt, an assistant chief with APD, told the committee at Atlanta City Hall at about the same time Deputy Chief Charles Hampton was meeting with reporters at Public Safety Headquarters to discuss the shooting at Lenox Square.

Coyt’s comment was in response to the question about the possibility that Chicago-area criminals are marking turf inside the city. Atlanta City Councilmember Cleta Winslow asked the question that goes to the heart of why the violence of the past year has been so extreme, in comparison to memories of the past:

  • “We’re all concerned about the guns and the violence happening, not only in the City of Atlanta, but metro wide. I come from the Midwest, about 90 miles from Chicago. I’m very concerned there may be more violent people moving down here, and that’s why it’s been a step up in things I’ve seen, we’ve all seen, with respect for violence.
  • “We’re all seeing something different that’s a little more frightening, where these people are trying to take over our city, and send a message they are taking over.”

Cleta Winslow

Coyt’s full answer observed:

  • “I wish I had an answer. But it’s happening nationwide. We are meeting around the country on a daily basis. Large or small, cities are experiencing an increase in violence and shootings and fights. At this point, we don’t have an answer.”

Atlanta Councilmember Michael Julian Bond asked about unruly behavior outside a club and what is being done to bring it under control. Bond then turned to questions about whether the suspects in the Lenox Mall shooting were charged as adults or juveniles, before shifting to ask about possible youth gang activities and the challenge of possible alternative interventions:

  • “We don’t want kids funneled into the system, but we don’t want to them to turn around and get back out and commit another act. Alternatively, these kids, while awaiting trial, we don’t know if that’s too late for PAD or other interventions.”

The question about a Chicago connection to the violence was just one of several questions Winslow brought forward. Homelessness was a common factor, including the case of a man chasing a girl and open defecation in city parks:

  • “A month and a half ago, a homeless man started chasing little girls around and broke a glass door trying to get into the pre-school. Just for the safety of people, children and everyone else, the homeless folks don’t need to be roaming around.”

Some homeless folks appear to have moved into some city parks, Winslow said. There are no bathrooms in these parks, prompting Winslow to observe:

  • “Nobody minds the homeless using the parks during appropriate hours. It’s the inappropriate hours. … Cleopas R. Johnson Park – I had an event there and I smelled feces in the park. … We don’t want it to become health related. We have employees cutting grass and moving around in the park. They could bring something back they don’t know about. That’s not good.”

Coyt said APD’s HOPE Team is to intervene in such incidents and try to help the person causing issues who appears to be homeless. HOPE stands for Homeless Outreach Proactive Enforcement.

“They’ll attempt to get them services to get them off the street, and any assistance they need,” Coyt said. “We’ll see homeless not violate any laws, and that’s why our HOPE Team will try to get them service.”


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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  1. Ana June 16, 2021 7:48 am

    I think it would serve us better to observe that the challenges faced from the “world wide lock down/pandemic” has created high stress and anxiety in everyone across the globe, many who have faced severe challenges in sustaining a basic living. Then the world just goes “back to business as usual”, with no efforts to assist in re-acclimating back into such said society. Just a thoughtReport

  2. John Doe June 16, 2021 1:49 pm

    We need to change that Marijuana law if we want more cops, honestly it’s alot of us that would like to be cops, and would love to help fill that gap for the city and it’s people, but we need help, also HAIR, It’s guys with locs aka dreads who are also counted out, these to things don’t make a man less than the other… ATLANTA, AMERICA WE NEED YOUR HELP CHANGING THIS


  3. Phyllis Neal June 16, 2021 5:24 pm

    Praying 🙏🏽 2 Timothy chapter 3Report

  4. Phyllis Neal June 16, 2021 5:26 pm

    Scary 😱 todayReport

  5. Dana F. Blankenhorn June 17, 2021 7:31 am

    Hopelessness and guns are a toxic mix. Many poor people have given up, and others have used the giving up as an excuse for race war. This has been done deliberately, and those responsible should pay for it. But they never seem to. They just move further away, and take away what help exists.Report

  6. Frances M Hamilton June 18, 2021 12:53 pm

    Cities act like homelessness is a temporary problem that is going to go away, ITS NOT. Face the problem and put public portable toilet facilities around and the homeless don’t have to use the bushes.Report

  7. Robert Peppel June 22, 2021 9:02 pm

    423 below strength should be the first clueReport


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