Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has been under fire for her leadership during a severe spike in crime in the City of Atlanta. The recent tragic death of 7-year-old Kennedy Maxie in the parking lot of Phipps Plaza sparked criticisms from Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook, former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and others who alluded to Bottoms’ leadership as the focal problem. With over 130 murders in the city in 2020, Mayor Bottoms said, “We are seeing numbers we have not seen in Atlanta as it relates to our murder rates. So, we recognize this is a problem.”
According to the Atlanta Police Department, the rise in crime is an unfortunate trend and not unique to just Atlanta. Many residents understood APD’s statement to mean that the issue of rising crime is a metro-wide or even a nationwide occurrence, however, citizens in Clayton County – GA may disagree. Based on crime statistics from the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office, crime is down in virtually every area in Clayton County. A report from 11 Alive News found that murder rates decreased in Clayton County in 2019. Crime continued to lower in 2020 with burglaries down 20%, robberies 10%, and homicide down more than 8%, a trend not seen in neighboring counties.
The statistical data from Clayton County presents a different narrative than other Metro-Atlanta counties and begs the question, “what is Clayton County doing that other jurisdictions are not?”
During the onset of Covid-19 in early 2020, metro county sheriffs came together and decided to release many inmates from their jails. This action was applauded by criminal justice advocates, but Sheriff Victor Hill went against the political grain and kept his jail fully operational during the pandemic. Surrounding county officials cited fears of spreading Covid-19 in the jails and backed the move to release inmates as a way to stifle the infection rate, however, in the Clayton County Jail, also known as the “Hill-Ton”, Covid-19 infections were found to be at 0.5%, a rate lower than the surrounding jurisdictions.
Sheriff Hill does not answer questions from the media, but released this statement through the Sheriff’s Office Nixel account. “Jurisdictions across the country responded to the Covid19 crisis by immediately releasing large numbers of inmates into the general public and refusing to accept inmates unless it was for major felonies. All of the jurisdictions that did this experienced significant increases in crime. The para-military Clayton County Jail, affectionately referred to as ‘The Hill-ton’, is not only known as the most disciplined jail in the world, but also as the cleanest. Both supporters and critics alike have both agreed that it is the only jail reference to as one being able to eat off of it floors.” The statement continued, “By keeping the jail fully functional while following COVID-19 safety guidelines, Clayton County has not only the bragging rights of a very low infection rate at the jail, but also a notable decrease in crime!”
While communities are calling on political leaders to find solutions to the increase in crime, it seems Sheriff Victor Hill’s foresight may have benefited the residents of Clayton County.