In response to “defund the police “rhetoric last summer, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she rejected taking money away from the police but insisted she’d already been doing much of the same work by “reallocating funds” to areas other than strict law enforcement, such as turning Atlanta’s city jail into a “center of equity, health and wellness.”
“I think that a very simplified message is ‘defund the police,’ but I think the overarching thing is that people want to see a reallocation of resources into community development and alternatives to just criminalizing … behavior, so I think it’s incumbent upon us to help people articulate that frustration,” Bottoms told WXIA-TV in June 2020.
“The intent of this movement, as best as I can assess, really is about reallocating funds for social services and support and community enhancement initiatives,” she added. “We are ahead of the curve in Atlanta because we are already reallocating our public safety [funds], we are already moving 60 percent roughly out of our corrections budget into that very specific area. So in some areas, people are calling it ‘defunding the police.’ In Atlanta we’ve been doing this work over the past couple of years.”
That didn’t necessarily mollify “defund the police” types, but it definitely didn’t mollify the residents of Atlanta. In 2020, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, homicides were up 58 percent over the previous year — 157 compared to 99 in 2019. In April, the Journal-Constitution noted the numbers were even more dire in 2021, with homicides in the first three months of the year up roughly 60 percent over 2020’s numbers during the same period.
“With Atlanta’s homicide numbers on pace to surpass last year’s historic total, the police department has taken a unique approach in its effort to curb gun violence across the city: pleading with residents not to shoot anyone,” the paper reported, with the department urging residents in a Facebook post, “Think before you shoot.”
The Atlanta neighborhood of Buckhead isn’t necessarily counting on the police department’s entreaties or any hope Mayor Bottoms reallocates those reallocations of funding. The richest area of Atlanta is considering seceding from the city because of the crime — crime like the weekend’s attack on a father of three who was shot twice while he was out for a jog on Saturday morning.
On Saturday morning, Andrew Worrell was rushed to a hospital after two bullets ripped through his body while he was taking his morning walk in Buckhead. On Sunday, he was back on his feet. https://t.co/k2UOh8maLC
— Atlanta Journal-Constitution (@ajc) June 7, 2021
According to the Daily Mail, 41-year-old Andrew Worrell was shot twice, once in the leg and once in the hip. Good Samaritans came to his aid and stopped the bleeding while waiting for paramedics to arrive; they also contacted his wife, Anne Pearce Worrell.
“He thought they may be asking for directions so he stopped,” Pearce Worrell wrote in a post on her Facebook page Saturday afternoon, noting the incident took place about 8:35 a.m. “The very tinted window rolled down and the guy pointed a gun at him and shot him, hit him in the upper thigh.
“Andrew turned to run and the guy shot him again, this one entering his left hip, hitting his ball and socket before traveling horizontally through this lower abdomen and lodging itself in his right hip area.
“The guy shot again but missed him as Andrew dove behind a tree. The guy fled. Andrew called 911 and flagged down a couple wonderful people who called me and took off their shirt and tried to stop the bleeding. They stayed with him until police, fire and paramedics arrived.”
Two joggers were also shot at about the same time, according to Fox News, but no one was injured.
Worrell was taken to Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital, where he underwent surgery. He was due to be released on Monday, Anne Worrell wrote in a Facebook update. It wasn’t clear Tuesday morning if he’d gone home.
The suspect, 22-year-old Gaelen Newsom, was arrested about 11:30 Saturday when a Kia Forte matching the description of the gunman’s vehicle was involved in a crash about a mile from the scene where Worrell was shot.
Police said 22-year-old Gaelen Newsom is the suspect in the two apparently connected crimes. https://t.co/aLp8FCobun
— FOX 5 Atlanta (@FOX5Atlanta) June 7, 2021
A man who was taking out his trash had been struck by the Kia Forte and pinned between the vehicle and a pickup truck, according to the Daily Mail. He was also rushed to Grady Memorial, the Daily Mail reported.
Inside the Kia Forte were shell casings. At a Saturday news conference, Deputy Atlanta Police Chief Charles Hampton Jr. said investigators were looking to match the shell casings with the shootings.
Newsom was charged with attempted murder, three counts of aggravated assault and two counts of possession of a firearm during a crime. At Saturday’s news conference,
Hampton said Newsom had had “some type of mental health crisis,” Fox reported.
Saturday’s crimes are likely to fuel the Buckhead area’s push to pull out of Atlanta.
State lawmakers have introduced a bill that would allow the area of 90,000 residents to secede from Atlanta as a whole; according to the Journal-Constitution, they’ve cited both crime and infrastructure issues.
You can imagine what the criticisms are: “Atlanta is a city known largely for its diversity and contributions to the civil rights movement. At a time when issues of race are under the microscope, the implications of a wealthy, mostly white community leaving a majority Black city are hard to overlook,” the Journal-Constitution noted in an April 25 article. Critics have called it divisive and said the move away from Atlanta wouldn’t fix the area’s crime rate.
Race, and racial diversity, might not be the primary issue for opponents of Buckhead’s secession, though. There’s money, too.
Buckhead is roughly 20 percent of the city’s population. However, it accounts for over 40 percent of the city’s assessed value when it comes to property taxes, the Journal-Constitution reported.
“A frequent criticism of Buckhead cityhood is that it could leave Atlanta in an impossible financial situation. The city gets most of its revenue, over $232 million in the latest fiscal year, from property taxes paid by homeowners and commercial property owners,” the Journal-Constitution reported.
“The assessed value of all the real estate in Atlanta currently totals nearly $35 billion, according to Fulton County Tax Assessor’s data. About 41% of that — over $14 billion — is in Buckhead. With its high-end shopping offerings, Buckhead has always had a strong commercial tax base; the most valuable piece of property is popular Lenox Square mall, valued at nearly $400 million by the county.”
Emory University professor Michael Leo Owens, an urban politics expert, told the Journal-Constitution that the city’s budget “would be completely wrecked” by the move.
However, what exactly do you expect? As The Wall Street Journal reported in March in an article describing the Buckhead secession movement, robberies are up 40 percent in Buckhead over last year, aggravated assaults up by 35 percent.
Numbers like that are part of what led Buckhead residents to form a committee to explore secession — and get its own police force, according to the newspaper.
“Some Buckhead residents are so alarmed by the crime wave that they have launched a committee to explore seceding from Atlanta, which would mean having its own police department,” the article noted. “The Buckhead Exploratory Committee told The Wall Street Journal that crime wasn’t its only concern but was playing a critical role.”
When crime was low in Atlanta and elsewhere, politicians were perfectly happy to engage in “reallocating funds” to progressive law enforcement causes, including turning the city jail into a “center of equity, health and wellness.”
But when crime numbers are skyrocketing, and the police have to take to social media to plead with criminals not to shoot other people, it’s pretty clear those policies aren’t working.
Yet, critics of the Buckhead secession movement say residents who want to remove themselves from a city wouldn’t be solving their issues with crime.
That doesn’t hold water. Massive jumps in crime have happened in blue city after blue city across the country. According to The Wall Street Journal, 29 out of 34 cities studied saw an increase in homicides in 2020. New York saw a 43 percent jump, Chicago 55 percent.
It’s not just the pandemic, either; it hasn’t helped that invective against police officers has officers using as light of a law enforcement touch as possible after the death of George Floyd.
Atlanta isn’t unusual. Buckhead’s situation is, though — and one gets the feeling this won’t be the last time we hear about this happening.
If cities are too liberal to keep their own residents safe, they’ll lose the residents who can leave — one way or another. Whether they secede or move to the suburbs, they’ll still be gone. Budgets will still “be completely wrecked.”
It’s just a matter of which way it happens.
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