Atlanta city council members have proposed a $1.6million plan to create a private police force in one of its wealthiest suburbs just days after a seven-year-old girl was fatally shot by a stray bullet.
Kennedy Maxie succumbed to her injuries on Saturday night, five days after she was shot in the back of the head while riding in a car with her aunt and mother in Buckhead, Georgia.
The young girl had just finished Christmas shopping with her family at the Phipps Plaza mall in the affluent Atlanta suburb, also known as the ‘Beverly Hills of the East.’
Police have been examining surveillance footage from the scene in an attempt to identify a suspect, but no arrests have been made so far.
A 7-year-old girl who was shot in the head by a stray bullet after Christmas shopping with her family in Atlanta has died, marking another fatality in a city suffering from a spike in gun violence. Kennedy Maxie (pictured) succumbed to her injuries Saturday night, the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office told news outlets Sunday
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has come under fire over the recent spike in crime in the city
Kennedy’s death marked the 155th homicide victim in Atlanta this year – the highest total since at least 1998, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
In response, a number of Atlanta city council members on Monday announced they were allocating $125,000 to fund the ‘Buckhead Security Plan’, which intends to establish a private security force in the area to supplement the Atlanta Police Department, NBC reported.
The proposal, which has also been backed by the police department, the Atlanta Police Foundation, members of the Fulton County Commission, and a member of Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms’ administration, aims to increase public safety using law enforcement officers from local and state agencies.
The plan is divided into two major categories, the first being ‘Deterrence & Enforcement,’ which seeks to install more license plate readers and cameras to cover all major intersections in the neighborhood.
It also calls for a coordinated security patrol which would consist of extra-duty officers from the APD, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office and private security firms, according to the website.
Under its second category, titled, ‘Policy & Procedural Change’, the proposal calls for ‘new approaches’ to ongoing issues and crackdowns on noise, ‘street racing’ and ‘spot checking overcrowding at problematic establishments’.
The shooting happened at Atlanta’s Phipps Plaza, where there was an alleged argument in the parking lot. Kennedy and her family were not involved in the incident leading up to the shooting
Atlanta city council members and the Buckhead Coalition are now proposing a plan to establish a private police force in the suburb – also known as the ‘The Beverly Hills of the East’ (pictured)
The plan aims to increase public safety in the neighborhood using law enforcement officers from local and state agencies
‘We are taking action to reverse recent trends in crime, hold lawbreakers accountable, and restore citizen confidence that Buckhead is safe and secure,’ said Jim Durrett, president of Buckhead Coalition and executive director of Buckhead Community Improvement District.
‘The partners collaborating on this effort understand the urgency of the situation and are committed to responding in ways that meet the needs of this moment and put Buckhead on a solid footing for years to come.’
Council member J.P. Matzigkeit, who was one of three members to allocate his municipal plans to the plan, said the city must ramp up its efforts in effective policing.
‘I don’t think that we’re doing effective policing right now because I don’t think we’re putting enough resources and attention to it like we are with the police reform work that we’re doing. We have to do both,’ he told Channel 2.
Fellow member Howard Shook also criticized Mayor Bottoms’s handling of the recent rise in crime.
‘It is obvious that the civilian authorities do not control the streets and cannot provide even a token feeling of safety beyond our front doors,’ he said in a statement last week.
Bottoms and the Atlanta Police Department’s interim chief, Rodney Bryant (pictured), have come under intense criticism for the spike in violent crime this year
The above chart shows the most recent Atlanta Police Department crime statistics. As of December 19, there was a 58 per cent increase in the number of homicides and a 42 per cent increase in the number of shooting incidents compared to the same period last year
‘To the administration, I don’t want to hear the word “uptick.” Stop minimizing our concerns by telling us that “crime is up everywhere.”
‘Spare us from the lie that the steady outflow of our officers isn’t as bad as it is. And please, not another throw-away press conference utterly devoid of game-changing action steps,’ he added.
It comes as Mayor Bottoms went on the defensive over the holiday weekend, saying she was ‘open to suggestions’ on stopping the crime wave, after three people were fatally shot in the city.
In a statement to news outlets, Bottoms said police have ‘significant leads’ in the investigation, and urged the public to provide information ‘that will lead to the arrests of the careless and heartless people responsible for Kennedy’s death.’
In response to Shook’s comments, Bottom said highlighting the rise in violence across the United States is ‘not an abdication of responsibility, but an acknowledgement of the widespread severity of this issue.’
‘If there are solutions that we have not explored and enacted, I welcome the suggestions, as I am always open to making the city that I am raising my children in a safer place for us all,’ she said.
Hours before Kennedy succumbed to her wounds, a 16-year-old girl, Kalecia Williams, was shot dead by a boy with whom she was staying at a downtown Atlanta hotel.
Williams was shot at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta on Peachtree Street around 12:27am on the day after Christmas.
Officers from the Atlanta Police Department arrived at the scene in the downtown hotel district to find the teen suffering from an apparent gunshot wound to the groin area.
She was not conscious or breathing and was rushed to a nearby hospital where she was later pronounced dead.
A male suspect, also 16, was arrested in connection with the shooting and charged with felony murder, aggravated assault, reckless conduct and possession of a pistol for person under the age of 18.
The 16-year-old is being held at the Metro Youth Detention Center and has not been identified by police due to his young age.