Super Bowl VIII activities have begun. Nearly a million people are expected to pour into downtown Atlanta over the next 10 days for this major event. What can we do to reduce the harm of Super Bowl activity?
The Atlanta Police Department and its law enforcement partners are primarily focused on security and traffic. However, a large police presence from dozens of different law enforcement agencies could result in higher arrests for quality of life and other offenses associated with poverty, addiction and mental health. Individuals who are homeless are actively being removed from their downtown encampments.
We have an opportunity to demonstrate a new approach to major events like these: one that makes all residents feel welcome in their city, and does not use incarceration as a way to hide people who are experiencing poverty, mental illness, or addiction.
As the Super Bowl descends on our city, everyone deserves to stay safe and avoid the crowds. Warming centers provide this option, particularly during daytime hours when no shelters are available. Warming centers are harm reduction. Without a place of refuge, we expect that many more people will end up in jail.
While warming centers may be re-opened next week if the temperature drops, they are needed even if it does not. PAD and other social service partners are requesting that the city open the warming centers 24/7 between Monday, January 26 and Monday, February 4.
The Atlanta/Fulton County Pre-Arrest Diversion Initiative exists because our city and county leadership, and many, many community members, have committed to new approaches to community safety and wellness. We know keeping people out of jail is the very first step in reducing harm and changing lives. Let’s stay the course, no matter what big event comes to town. Together, we can lead, Atlanta.