As of November 2018, public safety employees in DeKalb County, including police officers, firefighters, and 911 operators, have been granted a pay raise of 4%. This is in addition to the February 2018 vote to create 155 new police officer jobs.
DeKalb County has good reason to focus on attracting quality talent to police positions and ensuring that officers are well incentivized and supported. In 2017, the DeKalb County police department was severely understaffed, leading to a rise in both unsolved homicides and homicides in general. By the middle of the next year, the unsolved homicide rate showed significant improvement, thanks to a fuller staff of detectives.
One crime journalist and former councilman suggests that the link between officer retention and crime solving goes beyond having enough bodies or even enough experience on staff. Rather, the difference may have more to do with consistency. Routinely seeing the same faces behind the uniforms in a given neighborhood may make witnesses feel more comfortable coming forward with vital information.
There were two main reasons given in 2017 for the departure of so many officers: higher paying opportunities elsewhere, and inability to cope with the scrutiny related to unjustified police shootings.
Clearly, higher pay is necessary to retain the best officers, who will uphold the law fairly and responsibly. However, additional police officers and higher salaries can only go so far in remedying the county’s safety problem.
Violent Crime Is at Epidemic Levels in DeKalb County
For the first time on record, DeKalb County has outstripped Metropolitan Atlanta in number of homicides, as of 2017. Full data for 2018 is not yet available from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, but sadly, the early reports of a drop in unsolved homicides that year also noted an unchanged rate of homicide itself.
Violent crime remains commonplace, particularly in apartment complexes, hotels, and certain businesses. In 2018 alone, DeKalb County saw among its many violent crimes:
- Two children shot in their apartments on the same night, two miles apart and with no connection between them
- A woman stabbed to death in an abandoned apartment, in a complex infamous for its crime and uninhabitable conditions
- Two men shot outside their motel, after one of them mentioned having knowledge about recent robberies in the area
It’s worth noting, however, that while DeKalb’s homicide rate has gone up, Atlanta’s has dipped. When asked about the department’s improved numbers, Atlanta’s police chief credited the difference to identifying apartment complexes that generate violent crime and leaning on the property managers who enable it.
DeKalb County, and its new officers, can take notes from their neighbors’ success.
Better Funding for Public Safety Is Good, but It Can’t Replace Property Owner Responsibility
All the police in the world won’t be able to eliminate crime as long as landlords and business are willing to profit off of harboring it. Police rely on prompt 911 calls, thorough security footage, and cooperative witnesses to do their jobs. Criminals know this, and flock to properties where that support doesn’t exist, bringing their business with them.
If you’ve been a victim of violence due to a property owner’s negligence to foster a safe environment, The Stoddard Firm can help you fight back.