Dear PAD Partners and Supporters,
I’m writing to celebrate the start of a new chapter in Atlanta’s history. Leading up to Super Bowl LIII, we were nervous. But our partners stepped up.
Our shared goal was simple: Make sure there was not a spike in quality of life arrests prior to the Super Bowl, and that people experiencing poverty, homelessness, addiction or mental health challenges were not “swept under the rug.”
Homeless service providers and advocates conducted outreach to make people aware of the increased police presence in the downtown area, and resources available to them. The Atlanta Police Department welcomed Pre-Arrest Diversion staff at early morning roll-calls to make sure that officers understood how to make diversions instead of arrests. Volunteers attended Municipal Court to provide real-time feedback on the impact of bond and sentencing decisions.
We had faith that the City of Atlanta was ready to close a chapter of our history that started with a jail built for the Olympics, and begin a new chapter that places people’s wellness first. There is momentum, there is will, and there is evidence that a new story is beginning. PAD reviewed the booking records for the Atlanta City Detention Center for the period before and just after the Super Bowl, and we found no substantial increase in quality of life arrests.
From January 18 to February 6:
- There were between 20 and 39 non-traffic related bookings per day, with an average of 28 per day;
- Common non-traffic charges were pedestrian in the roadway, panhandling, possession of a drug related object, and disorderly conduct;
- During this period, PAD accepted six diversion referrals.
There is more work to be done. We are continuing to work with law enforcement and prosecutors’ offices to increase diversions both pre-arrest and pre-booking. We identified 31 bookings for single-charge marijuana possession in this time period, which suggests additional efforts are needed to implement the spirit of marijuana reclassification. But these numbers are something to celebrate.
The combined efforts of community organizations, social service providers, and the police department demonstrate our ability to take a new approach to major events such as these, and to address the real challenges faced by members’ of our community with more holistic responses. I am proud to share that we have a huge opportunity to do more of this in 2019 with the support of Fulton County and the City of Atlanta.
The Fulton County Board of Commissioners recently allocated $4M dollars to implement the recommendations of the Justice and Mental Health Taskforce, as part of the County’s bold commitment to partner with the state and City of Atlanta to continue strengthening much needed behavioral health services. This allocation included almost $1M to support the establishment of a peer-run behavioral health resource center that provides walk-in services and 24/7 law enforcement diversion. Planning conversations are underway with Fulton County, City of Atlanta, service agencies, and peer support organizations to craft a vision for this hugely needed resource.
I invite you to help write this new chapter of Atlanta’s approach to community safety and wellness. If you are interested in getting involved with this planning process, please send me an email or call the office at 470-819-4853. Thank you for lifting your voice and showing up to demonstrate faith in harm reduction, recovery, and transformation. I’m honored to do this work alongside you.