Courtesy of Aisha Bryant
Intown residents, fed up with increased crime, particularly illegal drag racing, shared their concerns with Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore. Moore also addressed other quality of life issues, such as cash bail and coronavirus assistance to the city.
Moore, however, did not address violent crime but did say eliminating crime was not a simple or quick process.
“I’m just a real person,” Moore said. “I’m not here to tell you anything you want to hear. If there was a magic bullet, I would’ve shot it a long time ago.”
Addressing quality of life issues, Moore explained that drag racing has put a drain on the police department’s resources. Drag racing in Midtown and Morningside/Lenox Park is an ongoing issue but is being addressed, Moore told residents on a Zoom call.
Moore said that cash bails for city offenses were eliminated and that the city council is working to keep people with low-level offenses out of jail. Moore said many who are arrested on low-level offenses can’t afford cash bail.
“Typically [cash bails] impacted people who were homeless, who didn’t have the money that you or I may have–a few hundred dollars–to bail out and then come to court,” Moore said.
The Atlanta Police Department said that since January, 459 people have been cited or arrested for street racing-related incidents. Major Prenzinna Spann said officers were working in two parts to give citations to drag racers.
“One part is actually to immediately cite the drag racers, and once we see them on any of the violations of lane drag racing on the highway, or even reckless driving,” Spann said. “And then, if we can’t get to them, we’re doing what we consider the smart policing technique, where we’ll gather intel from their tag information, and we’ll have an investigator or officer go out and then cite them that way.”
Ansley park resident Suzanne Darley worked previously with Moore on a safety board in Buckhead years ago and believes Moore’s community concern is genuine.
“I remembered Felicia Moore [and] I remembered her activism,” said Darley, who asked for Moore’s assistance. “She always has … been somebody who’s going to take that action and be transparent and involve the community … so that’s why I asked her.”
The community had low crime until recently, said Morningside resident Alexis Ahlzedah.
“I think that Morningside has been historically pretty devoid of crime,” Ahlzedah said. “In the last two and a half years, I’ve seen more homeless people, and just in the last six months, I’ve seen the street racing everyone talks about.”
She and others have shared their concerns on NextDoor, a social networking website for neighborhoods. While Ahlzadeh has focused mainly on street racing and the growing homeless population, increased break-ins and violence also worry residents.
Mike Russell, who lives in Ansley Park, has noticed an increase in violent activity, noting that since he moved in two years ago, violent crime has become “dramatically worse.”
“The murder rate and street crime [have risen dramatically],” Russell said. “Then there’s the street racing, which I hear constantly. That wasn’t happening when I first moved here.”
The communities’ shared concerns include homelessness, the elimination of the city’s cash bail system parties hosted at clubs, street-racing and overall crime.
Major Spann reminded residents that the pandemic halted court appearances and those cited haven’t been charged by a judge. She said impounding cars involved in drag racing is a possible solution.
Moore addressed some of the economic issues surrounding Coronavirus and its impact on businesses.
Coronavirus relief funds are being used for rental assistance and assisting small businesses, Moore said. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has continually ordered Atlanta Watershed not to turn off residents’ water for nonpayment.
“We’re doing all of the things that we can do to try to help support people and families during this time,” Moore said.