An Atlanta teen selling water bottles was killed over $10. A young man was shot at a skate park. A child was gunned down on July 4. Their deaths were among the 157 homicides the Atlanta Police Department investigated in 2020, up from 99 in 2019 and the most in more than two decades. “It’s ridiculous that now, even during this pandemic, we got more gun violence going on than ever before,” said Columbus Ward, an activist in the Peoplestown neighborhood, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s really scary because you don’t know who’s going to be killed or who’s going to be shot or where those shots are coming from,” Ward said. “It’s just everywhere.”
The deadly surge has residents and business owners addled while police and city leaders struggle for solutions. “I’ve never been afraid to get gas or go to the grocery store before,” said resident Agie Rutkowski. “Now, if it’s dark outside, I don’t go out.” “Stop minimizing our concerns by telling us that ‘crime is up everywhere.’ Spare us from the lie that the steady outflow of our officers isn’t as bad as it is,” said City Council member Howard Shook. “It will take a lot to turn this around. But here, in descending order, are the three things we need to begin: leadership, some leadership, any leadership.” Former police investigator Lakea Gaither said Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has “lost the confidence of the officers.” An 18-year award-winning veteran, Gaither was one of 200 who quit during the year. Many left after Erika Shields stepped down as chief in June after 0fficer Garrett Rolfe shot Rayshard Brooks after a scuffle in a parking lot. After Bottoms quickly announced that Rolfe had been fired and then-Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced criminal charges, hundreds of officers staged an “blue flu” in protest.