Crime in Atlanta
|Crime rates* (2015)|
|Total violent crime||5,203|
|Motor vehicle theft||4,282|
|Total property crime||25,556|
*Number of reported crimes per 100,000 population.
** Legacy definition
Source: FBI 2015 UCR data
Atlanta’s public safety improvement between 2001 and 2009 occurred at more than twice the rate of the rest of the country. After ranking in the top five highest violent crime cities for most of the previous three decades, in 2009 Atlanta ranked 31st, and in 2015, 24/7 Wall Street ranked it 19th. While various news sources report rankings by crime rate, FBI strongly cautions against this, because this is a misuse of bare statistics, since it ignores various important factors, such as population density, degree of urbanization, composition of population, economic conditions, etc. 
During the 1970s, like with many large cities within the United States, Atlanta’s population began to decline. By 1990, the population was 394,017, down almost 20% from its population in 1970, which was 496,973. In addition, the city center and surrounding areas began to go through an urban decay, and crime spiked significantly throughout the 1980s. Along with many other major cities in the United States, Atlanta was hard hit by the crack epidemic of most of the 1980s to early 1990s. In 1994, Atlanta was ranked the most dangerous city in the country by the Morgan Quitno Press.
In 1997, drug-related crime in metro Atlanta increased slightly, in part due to Atlanta becoming an important distribution center for cocaine, and other related drugs imported from Mexico. These increases were mostly seen in Fulton, Gwinnett, DeKalb, Cobb, and Clayton counties. Many law enforcement agencies in the area have joined forces together with the Atlanta Police Department in an effort to decrease the overall crime in metro Atlanta.
The city is served by the Atlanta Police Department. In 2013, the APD had 2,000 officers, but the number of officers has decreased since that time. Mayor Kasim Reed has identified an increase in the number of officers to 2,000 as a goal for the city. Although city data shows that APD attrition rates have improved from the 2000s to 2013, morale issues within the police department has persisted due to officer dissatisfaction with salaries. About 45 percent of officers hired between 2005 and 2013 left the force by 2017. Atlanta is divided into six police patrol zones.
The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), which operates rail, bus, and parking lots in the city and surrounding area, has its own police force. Overall crime rates in are about 30 per every 100,000 system daily riders, which is identical to the crime figure for the Washington, D.C. area‘s WMATA, higher than crime figure for the Boston area’s MBTA, and lower than the crime figure for the San Francisco area’s BART. Homicides within the MARTA system have varied. In the fiscal year ending in 2017, for example, there were four homicides investigated by MARTA police, but there were no homicides in the MARTA system in any of the previous last four fiscal years. Total crimes in the MARTA system have declined from fiscal year 2013.
Crime rates and trends
From 2009 to 2016, overall crime in Atlanta declined 27 percent, “with sharp declines in burglaries (9,102 in 2009 to 4,377 in 2016), robberies (2,622 to 1,914) and aggravated assaults (2,602 to 2,179).”
Consistent with national trends, the murder rate in Atlanta peaked in 1990 and have declined since. From 2000 to 2010, murders in the city declined by nearly 50 percent. The years 2009 and 2012 had the lowest numbers of homicides in Atlanta than any year dating back to 1963, but there has been an increase in murders in the city beginning in 2013. The number of murders in Atlanta was 80 in 2009, 92 in 2010, 88 in 2011, 85 in 2012, 82 in 2013, 93 in 2014, 95 in 2015, and 111 in 2016. A significant number of murders have remained unsolved; as of February 2017, 51 of the 111 homicides from 2016 remain unsolved.
An analysis of FBI Uniform Crime Report data for 2015, conducted by the economic analysis website 24/7 Wall Street, showed a murder rate in Atlanta of about 20.2 per 100,000 people, making it the 18th highest murder rate among U.S. cities. A October 2016 FiveThirtyEight analysis of preliminary 2016 data, taken from official police information and local reports, found that among U.S. cities with populations of over a quarter-million people, Atlanta had the tenth-highest murder rate, at 23.9 per 100,000 residents.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said that 17% of 2014 homicides in the county were gang-related. In Atlanta, guns were involved in 82% of homicide cases. In July 2016, in an attempt to combat an increase in homicide, the city began Operation Whiplash, with additional police officers and other resources assigned to 33 “challenging and crime-ridden” neighborhoods in the city.
Street gangs of various levels of sophistication have had a presence in the city since the late 1970’s. In 2015, Atlanta police were tracking about 192 gangs, more than double the number identified six years earlier. The supervisor of the FBI’s Atlanta Safe Streets Gang Task Force said in 2016 that more than half of violent crime in the city involved gang members. In addition to violent crime, drug dealing, and carjacking, some Atlanta gangs commit identity theft and credit card fraud.
Atlanta is now a major transportation hub when it comes to trafficking young girls from Mexico and is one of the fourteen U.S. cities with the highest levels of sex trafficking of children.
In the year of 2007 the sex trade generated $290 million in Atlanta. This number derives from the study “Estimating the Size and Structure of the Underground Commercial Sex Economy in Eight Major US Cities” by the Urban Institute, with 18 interviews :121 conducted in Atlanta, and includes “prostitutes, massage parlors, and brothels” including both “pimp controlled” and “non-pimp controlled” :122. In the study, human trafficking is defined in the section “Background on the Prevalence of Human Trafficking in the United States” as “any sex act in exchange for which anything of value is given to or received by any person (e.g., prostitution).” :7.
Since Atlanta has “the same ready access to commercial air and ground routes that draws businesses and travelers to Atlanta also entices criminals engaged in human trafficking”. There are numerous events and conventions in Atlanta that bring many people to the city which also exemplifies the issue.
- Atlanta murders of 1979-1981 — A series of murders that started from the summer of 1979 and ended in the spring of 1981. Twenty children were killed in this incident.
- Atlanta Prison Riots — A series of riots in 1987. One hundred people were made hostage and a portion of the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary was burned.
- Centennial Olympic Park bombing — Killed 2 people and injured 111 during the 1996 Summer Olympics.
- Mark O. Barton – Known for the July 29, 1999 murders of 12 people and wounding of 13 more at two Atlanta day trading firms.
- Brian Nichols — Known for 2005 escape and killing spree in the Fulton County Courthouse and later killing an off-duty federal agent.
- “FBI”. Fbi.gov. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
- Edwards, David (November 1, 2010). “How to create a safer Atlanta”. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on November 9, 2010. Retrieved January 25, 2017.
- The Most Dangerous Cities in America, page 3, 24/7 Wall Street, September 27, 2016. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
- ““Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics: Their Proper Use““. Ucr.fbi.gov. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
- Population Division, Laura K. Yax. “Population of the 100 Largest Cities and Other Urban Places In TheUnited States: 1790 to 1990”. Census.gov. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
- The First Safest/Most Dangerous City Listing. Morgan Quitno Press. Lawrence, Kansas, United States. 1994.
- “Major cocaine and marijuana ring busted in Atlanta”. Bizjournals.com. September 17, 2008. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
- “Mexican drug cartel busted up in Atlanta”. Bizjournals.com. October 29, 2008. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
- “Archived copy”. Archived from the original on 2009-05-31. Retrieved 2009-06-09.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- Becca J. G. Godwin, 51 Atlanta homicides from 2016 remain unsolved. These are the victims, Atlanta Journal Constitution (February 15, 2017).
- Jonathan Shapiro, 2,000 Atlanta Police Officers, But Gripes Remain Over Pay, WABE (October 25, 2013).
- Katie Leslie, APD reaches a once-elusive goal of 2,000 officers, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (October 25, 2013).
- Christian Boone, Murders in Atlanta are way up, but overall crime is way down, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (January 31, 2017).
- “Atlanta Police Department : Zone Maps”. Atlantapd.org. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
- Joshua Sharpe, After recent killings, how safe is MARTA?, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (February 16, 2017).
- Bryan Cronan, The Homicide Report, Atlanta Magazine (May 15, 2014).
- Marcus K. Garner, Atlanta homicides 2nd lowest in 50 years, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (January 10, 2013).
- Fiza Pirani, Atlanta named one of America’s top ‘murder capitals’, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (November 2, 2016).
- Jeff Asher, A Handful Of Cities Are Driving 2016’s Rise In Murders, FiveThirtyEight (October 6, 2016).
- Christian Boone, Violent crime fueled by gangs on the rise in Atlanta, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (July 1, 2015).
- As murder rate rises, Atlanta aims to get guns off streets, Associated Press (July 5, 2016).
- Crime in Atlanta: Fighting back: What gangs can offer young Asian-Americans, The Economist (July 11, 2016).
- Mark Winne, Metro Atlanta’s gang problem larger than ever before, WSB-TV (November 14, 2016).
- “Civil Rights Prosecutions: Human Trafficking | USAO | Department of Justice”. Justice.gov. Retrieved 2016-04-18.
- “Georgia Laws”. Street Grace, Inc. Retrieved 2016-04-18.
- “Estimating the Size and Structure of the Underground Commercial Sex Economy in Eight Major US Cities” (PDF). Urban.org. Retrieved 2019-01-31.
- “The Urban Institute”. Urban.org. Retrieved 2019-02-01.