Residents of Atlanta’s wealthiest community are attempting to create their own city and police force amid a dramatic surge in violent crime citywide that includes a more than 60 percent jump in murders so far this year.
A movement is growing in the Buckhead neighborhood to become a separate entity from the city of Atlanta. The suburb is home to about 86,000 residents.
“Given everything that’s been going on here, it’s getting worse and worse and worse,” Bill White, CEO and chairman of the Buckhead City Committee told Fox News on Wednesday. “So what we’re doing because of the murders going through the roof and the attempted murders, and the lack of leadership and nothing changing—the insanity continues—is we’re demanding emergency hearings on our cityhood bills.”
“I say we have three major issues and that’s all we have … crime, crime, and crime,” White added, noting that the committee will on Thursday demand emergency hearings on the issue.
White said residents of the community want to form their own city, establish their own police force, and “eradicate crime.”
“We filed for divorce and our divorce is final,” the committee chairman said of the community’s efforts to divorce from Atlanta.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers introduced a bill that could bring a “Buckhead City” vote on the November 2022 ballot. The committee says it has raised $600,000 to commission a feasibility study and fund future lobbying efforts.
It comes as the city of Atlanta is experiencing what Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has described as a “COVID crime wave.”
Last year, the Atlanta police department probed 157 homicides, up from 99 in 2019, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Police data show that as of May 29, homicides in the city were up 63 percent at 57 compared to 35 in the same period in 2020. Shootings in the city have also increased by 45 percent, from 208 last year to 302 in the same period this year.
Last month, an Atlanta mayoral candidate, who had his car stolen by a group of minors, said he believes a “generational poverty issue” exists in the city.
Councilman Antonio Brown, who last year had backed a proposal to cut police funding in the city by tens of millions of dollars, said he was at a ceremony in northeastern Atlanta on May 26 when the children jumped into his vehicle and drove away.
In an interview with FOX5, the councilman said the minors were between the ages of 6 and 12.
“This is a generational poverty issue. These kids, it’s 12:30 in the afternoon. Why aren’t they in school? Why aren’t we enforcing systems to ensure that if they are not in school, they’re in recreational centers?” he told WSB-TV.
The Buckhead City Committee, meanwhile, told The Wall Street Journal that residents no longer feel safe while going about their daily lives.
“Our residents are genuinely concerned for their safety and the safety of their family members,” the committee said.
“Residents must be wary and ‘on guard’ continuously, even when doing routine tasks like going to the gas station, nearby shopping mall, shopping at the grocery store or just pulling into their driveways, mindful if anyone is lurking in the bushes.”
White told Fox News that some of his friends in the neighborhood are too afraid to go to the gas station to pump gas, especially if they have the children in the car.
“People believe truly that this is an emergency—that’s the message I’m getting—and that we are living in a war zone,” White said.
White emphasized that he doesn’t lay any blame for the increase in crime on police but said the number of officers assigned to the area is insufficient.
The chairman took aim at the ongoing calls to defund the police that emerged in the aftermath George Floyd’s May death in police custody in Minneapolis. The community needs more, not less police, White said.
“The diverse community of Buckhead hears that and says, ‘Go to hell,’” White said of the “Defund the Police” movement. “I’ve talked to communities in Atlanta, leaders and, you know, really hard crime areas in Atlanta … The only thing they’re telling me and begging me to help them with is more police, not less police.”
He added: “The thing with crime is it’s colorblind. It’s hitting black people, it’s hitting white people … this has nothing to do with politics.”
In June last year, an ordinance that would have defunded the Atlanta Police Department by about $73 million failed in a 7-8 vote.
More recently, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) said the “defund the police” movement would endanger Georgian communities. He signed HB 286 (pdf) into law on May 7 forbidding large budget cuts for local police.
The mayor’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment by The Epoch Times.
Jack Phillips contributed to this report.