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An affluent neighborhood in Atlanta known as Buckhead has paid taxes for decades that helped keep the rest of the city afloat. Far from getting a thank-you, residents appear to be increasingly targeted by criminals.
They wonder why they should remain part of the city at all, rather than forming their own independent city where they can create their own policies and where their money will be spent protecting their citizens. But Atlanta leaders who they say never seemed to care much about them are demanding that they stay anyway.
Racial protests spurred calls to defund the police but also coincided with an increase in crime that seemed to particularly target residents of the neighborhood, 74% of whom are white. Over the last year, aggravated assaults are up 26% in Atlanta but up 52% in Buckhead. Robberies are up 2% across the city but 39% in Buckhead, while car larceny is up 27% across the city but 40% in Buckhead.
The screeching sounds of street racing are now nearly constant in Buckhead, both in the early hours of the morning and during the day, residents told The Daily Wire.
The increase in criminal activity is a stark shift for the formerly safe uptown district. The police presence in Atlanta has been slashed since last summer, when metropolitan areas around the country reeled in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Riots and demands to defund the police gripped Atlanta, exacerbated by the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks in the city just weeks after Floyd’s death.
In June 2020, Democratic Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms acknowledged that morale among Atlanta police officers was “down ten-fold.” Homicides are up 58% across the city, while shootings are up 40%. Meanwhile, arrests have plummeted 43%. Bottoms blamed the rise in crime on the pandemic, saying Atlanta is seeing a “COVID crime wave.”
By December, the Atlanta police force was down more than 400 officers from its “authorized strength” of 2,046. More than 275 have quit the force since last summer. The department has said it intends to hire 250 new officers starting in July.
Earlier this month, a Buckhead man was shot in the thigh as he was jogging. The shooting appeared to be random, with the victim saying that a man simply pulled up in a car and shot him. The suspect then drove off and injured a pedestrian with his car before he was apprehended, police said.
David Shafer, chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, told The Daily Wire that “there is a lawlessness that has taken over this area of the city.”
“You have police officers who are completely demoralized and who are being restrained from doing their job,” Shafer said.
Shafer referenced the string of shootings at Lenox Square Mall in the heart of Buckhead, where a security guard was held at gunpoint and shot by two teenagers earlier this month. Since the 2019 holiday season, there have been at least seven shootings at the mall, home to several high-end stores.
“When I was in high school I would go on dates to the movie theater in Lenox Square Mall,” Shafer recalled, adding that now, “I wouldn’t allow my adult daughter or wife to go to Lenox Square.”
Atlanta’s issues with police manpower go back to at least 2018, when the police chief announced that officers would no longer respond to shoplifting calls at Buckhead stores due to an officer shortage.
Buckhead has 20% of Atlanta’s residents but 40% of the taxable property values that make up the city’s main income source.
The notion of seceding from Atlanta appears to have been first proposed in 2008 by the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation, which disseminated a newsletter that blared, “Forming The City of Buckhead Would Result In A Reduction of Taxes By Over 50%.”
“Buckhead residents pay much higher taxes than our surrounding neighbors, while receiving fewer services,” the now-defunct group wrote. “Buckhead taxpayers are simply tired of having our votes and money taken for granted by the City of Atlanta.”
Three years earlier, nearby Sandy Springs became its own city after fighting state and local authorities on the issue for three decades.
State lawmakers filed a bill to create Buckhead City in March. The issue could show up on the ballot for Buckhead residents by November 2022.
But even if the city leaders didn’t pay much attention to Buckhead residents’ needs, they did not want them to leave, which would require the city to significantly tighten its belt.
“I think it is a terrible idea. I think it sends the wrong message,” Bottoms said in April of the proposal. “I understand the frustration, but creating a new city is not the answer.”
Ginger Howard, Georgia’s Republican National Committeewoman, said she moved her upscale women’s apparel shop in Buckhead to a side street because of rising crime.
“It makes me really sad,” she told The Daily Wire. “In these major cities that are run by Democrats the crime is going to continue to increase if they don’t support our police.” She said she strongly supports the movement for Buckhead to form a new city with its own police force.
Resident Bill White is chairman and CEO of the Buckhead City Committee, which is leading that movement. White claimed Buckhead residents feel Bottoms has “violated her oath of office” by failing to keep residents safe.
“I don’t know whether she doesn’t know what to do, or she doesn’t care, or it’s a combination of both,” he told The Daily Wire.
White said that while he has been in Atlanta for only three years, some families have been there for generations and “feel they are part of the fabric of Atlanta,” so it is “very sad” and difficult for residents to understand why no one from Bottoms’ administration has reached out to the community.
“You would think that somebody from the mayor’s office would reach out to us if they’re so worried about Atlanta going bankrupt,” White said. “You’d think they would reach out to us and try to help us with these things. It’s crickets from them.”
“They don’t care about us. They just want the money,” White added, remarking that if Buckhead secedes, Atlanta is “finally going to have to figure out how to live on a budget.”
“We’re going to take control of our own destiny,” he said.