Some residents of Atlanta’s wealthiest neighborhood 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 homicides this year.
A movement is growing in the Buckhead district, which has about 86,000 residents, to become a separate entity from the city of Atlanta.
“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 June 9. “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 said.
He said many residents of the neighborhood 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 district’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.
The effort 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 investigated 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 youths jumped into his vehicle and drove away.
In an interview with FOX 5, 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,” he 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 of George Floyd’s May death in police custody in Minneapolis.
“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.
“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 an 8–7 vote.
More recently, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, said the “defund the police” movement would endanger local communities. He signed HB 286 (pdf) into law on May 7 forbidding large budget cuts for local police.
A spokesperson for the mayor’s office opposed the Buckhead City Committee’s proposal, telling The Epoch Times that while Buckhead is an “important and valued” part of Atlanta, “Even if an impermeable wall were built around this proposed new city, it would not address the COVID crime wave that Atlanta, the state, and the rest of the nation are experiencing.
“That is why this measure is opposed by many residents and the business community,” the spokesperson said. “Creating a city is complex and would call for a new school system, the purchase of City owned assets, development of a governing structure, infrastructure, etc. A better use of this energy would be to work together to address the challenges facing our city, not to divide Atlanta.”
Jack Phillips contributed to this report.
This article has been updated to include comment from the mayor’s office.