Months after a spate of car thefts and other thefts from gas stations caught the attention of metro Atlanta residents, Fulton County police said the trend has subsided.
“We have what we consider to be very early good news,” Fulton County Police Chief Gary Stiles said about the drop in crime. “I think we’re all on the right track.”
The theft of vehicles belonging to the actress Queen Latifah and retired superior court judge Marvin Arrington, Sr., highlighted an increase in so-called “slider” crimes late last year. Police in unincorporated Fulton County, Atlanta and other cities saw a sharp increase in thefts where someone slides into an unlocked car and takes the car, or items in it — especially at gas stations, where people often left their cars unlocked as they pumped.
Stiles had identified nearly two dozen people, most of them juvenile offenders, as the perpetrators of the majority of the crimes. As of Friday, he said, more than half of them were in jail — a large reason for the decrease.
The suspects had been arrested before, but were often let out of jail on bond, only to commit crimes again, Stiles said. He said talking to juvenile court judges allowed police to let the court system know when they were dealing with repeat offenders.
“These criminals, they deal with in a slightly different fashion,” Stiles said. “With the open lines of communication, I don’t think we’ll have this problem again.”
In addition to letting the courts know about repeat offenders, Stiles said bail was being set at a higher level for these crimes, making it more difficult for people to get out on bond and offend again.
Fulton County has also allocated money for ankle monitors to help track offenders who are not in jail. And Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves said he expected to spend close to $1 million on youth programs that would support job training and help further reduce crime.
“It may be too soon to claim complete victory, but we’re moving in the right direction,” Eaves said.
Between October and December, there were 245 slider crimes in Union City, unincorporated Fulton County and the hardest-hit part of Atlanta, according to statistics from Fulton County police. For the first three months of this year, the number had fallen to 73, a 70 percent decrease.
The true test, Stiles said, will be to see how the trend continues throughout the year. In March, there were just six such crimes in unincorporated Fulton County, as opposed to 38 last October.
Though the south part of the county was the hardest hit, the crimes happened across metro Atlanta. In addition to the arrests, a campaign to get people to lock their cars while they pump gas has also had an effect, Stiles said.