Homicide rate increases in Clayton County

By Ed Brock

An increase in gang activity has contributed to an increase in the homicide rate, but Clayton County police say they're making headway in fighting those gangs.

In 2004, between January and April there were two homicides in Clayton County. This year, during that same time period, there have been seven homicides, according to Clayton County Police Department statistics. And as of Monday the total was 11 homicides investigated by the county police department, nearly as many as the total number of 15 homicides that occurred last year.

There has also been one homicide in Riverdale that was investigated by the Riverdale Police Department.

Earlier this year the Clayton County Police Department formed the Clayton County Gang Task Force Clayton County Assistant Chief Jeff Turner said

"The gang task force has been out in full force," Turner said. "They're making a pretty good impact."

Gang activity has gone down since the task force began full operations, Turner said, and an increase in tips from the general public has helped, too.

In other areas the crime rate appears to be fairly level, with smaller increases in some crimes and decreases in the numbers of robberies and aggravated assaults that occurred between January and April of both years. April is the most recent month for which the CCPD has crime statistics.

The change in the homicide rate represents a 250 percent increase and it was followed by a 66.67 percent increase in arson. There were six cases of arson in January-April 2004 and 10 cases in January-April 2005.

After arson the largest increase was in the number of rapes, with 14 occurring in the January-April period this year and 12 occurring last year. Burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft also increased while robbery and aggravated assault are down from this time period last year. All of the aforementioned crimes are "Part I" crimes, considered to be the more serious.

Among the Part II crimes, such as forgery, fraud, stolen property and vandalism, crimes against persons decreased from 289 in the same time period last year to 266 this year. The Morrow Police Department also reported a decrease in Part II crime.

However, Carol Callocchio says crime has gone up in the county. She says her neighborhood south of Riverdale used to be nice and quiet but now things have changed.

"I've had my car broken into twice," Callocchio said. "I don't think there's enough patrolling."

Cheryl Blair of Jonesboro said she also thinks crime is up in the county.

"The kids are hanging out," Blair said. "Since they brought the bus into Clayton County there's just been a lot more crime."

Antoine Smith moved to Jonesboro four months ago from Denver, Colo.

"Compared to that city the crime rate here is much higher," Smith said, referring to Atlanta as a whole.

But Smith said that might just be a perspective caused by a media focus on crime.