Fulton County Deputy Police Chief Gary Stiles said although the crime rate is going down, the violence of existing crimes, and the proximity of their young perpetrators, is a major concern.
“[Home invasions] are being committed by our youth. They’re not visitors from outside the neighborhood. They are our kids,” he said.
Several panelists agreed crime has roots in juvenile misbehavior that escalates under social and economic pressure. Juvenile Court Judge Bradley Boyd explained the link between child abuse and juvenile offenders.
“Somewhere along the line, victims become criminals,” he said. “It’s like somebody threw a switch.”
Boyd and Chief Superior Court Judge Gail S. Tusan advocated programs to turn youth around at critical pivot points before they advance from truancy and substance abuse to a life of crime.
Atlanta Police Chief George Turner revealed the police department keeps a list of the city’s 481 most dangerous repeat offenders, 99 percent of whom have been convicted. It’s small comfort, though, he said, for injured parties.
“Crime in the city of Atlanta is down, but that doesn’t matter if you’re a victim,” he said.
About 200 residents attended the event, some of whom aired grievances with slow response time, lack of street lighting and too few cops on the beat.
But several also pointed the finger at each other, calling for more involvement by civilians.
“We, the citizens, are the ones who have dropped the ball,” said Janet Martin of Atlanta. “I can’t get anyone to go with me to the Citizens’ Police Academy [on March 13]. There are all these programs we need to go to instead of coming to complain.”