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Georgia Republican seeks to 're-fund' police amid public concerns about Biden's handling of crime

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 7/28/2021 Katherine Doyle
Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Washington Examiner

As President Joe Biden struggles to contain a rise in crime and a wing of his party that wants to defund or reform the police, some state officials have started to take matters into their own hands.

In Georgia, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan is proposing a measure that would allow private citizens to write checks to underfunded police departments in exchange for a tax credit.

As a state representative, Duncan proposed something similar for rural hospitals.


“Nobody really had any solutions. I was able to create a tax credit program that empowered communities by letting citizens and corporations directly contribute to their problem,” Duncan told the Washington Examiner.

Duncan said he is not running for reelection, but 2022 could test others in the state charting their political fortunes by seizing on the crime surge.

Criticism has fallen on Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms as the city faces a sharp increase in homicides. Lance Bottoms has said she wouldn’t seek another term, a surprise move after she held a fundraising event featuring Biden.

She said the decision is unrelated to the scrutiny she faces over rising crime, but the issue is emerging as a totem among the hopefuls looking to replace her.

Former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is seeking a political comeback in the city, pointing to how murders have nearly doubled in the city since the summer before he left office in 2018. And donors are flocking to him.

"It's because people remember what the city was like when I was mayor," Reed told WABE radio. "And they have come to the conclusion that things were better when I was mayor."

Crime has soared in Atlanta’s wealthy Buckhead neighborhood. As of June this year, homicides climbed by 133%, with shootings up 164%. Some residents are pushing to form their own city.

Duncan said he thinks Atlanta residents need immediate solutions.

“The problems are right here, right now. The calls I get are about crime that happened last night or the crime that happened last week, and they are expecting results immediately so they can get their businesses back open, their kids playing back on the streets, and feel safe when they leave their home,” he said.

The focus on public safety is expected to grow. Brian Robinson, a veteran Republican operative in the state, called crime “the No. 1 issue going into 2022.

Voters are concerned about rising crime and Biden’s handling of it, recent polls show.

In a Morning Consult/Politico poll, 78% of voters called violent crime a “major problem” in the United States, and 73% said it is growing. Forty-nine percent said the defunding of police departments, a cause some prominent Democrats have rallied behind, is driving the surge. Among Republicans, that number rose to 74%.

The July 9-12 poll surveyed 1,996 registered voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Last month, the percentage of people who said crime across the country was “extremely serious” hit its highest point in 20 years, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted June 27-30, 2021.

Fifty-nine percent of people said they believed crime is an “extremely” or “very” serious issue, with Republicans and Democrats voicing the sentiment. And while concern about local crime is lower, 17% said crime where they live is extremely or very serious.

In June, Biden detailed a crime strategy centered on reducing gun violence and distributing funding from his COVID-19 spending package to boost local policing efforts.

But the president is underwater with voters on the issue, according to the Washington Post poll, scoring 38% approval and 48% disapproval, while 14% voiced no opinion.

Homicide rates have climbed by double digits in many major cities.

In Atlanta, police are investigating 63 homicide cases in 2021, up 58% over the same period last year.

Across a 34-city sample, homicides increased by 30% in 2020, according to a study by the Council on Criminal Justice. Homicides spiked by 24% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same quarter one year earlier and grew by 49% over the first quarter of 2019, the group said.

The White House shared these numbers in a June fact sheet as Biden rolled out an anti-crime strategy focused on gun crime and rising homicides last month. The president said American Rescue Plan funds could be used to boost police department hiring, among other traditional law enforcement priorities and community-led proposals.

"Local governments could reserve some of those funds to evaluate the effectiveness of the programs," said Ernesto Lopez, a senior fellow with the Council on Criminal Justice who co-authored the studies. Biden's plan is not federally led, Lopez said, meaning local areas will need to find ways to tweak the proposals.

Democrats advocating for policing overhauls have voiced concerns about calls to address crime. As a senator, Biden was a leading architect of the 1994 crime bill later criticized as contributing to a trend of mass incarceration.


In a meeting with mayors and police chiefs this month, Biden said he and Attorney General Merrick Garland had “been at this a long time,” meaning efforts to tamp down on crime.

“A long time. Most of my career has been on this issue,” he added.

Tags: News, White House, Biden Administration, Joe Biden, Crime, Atlanta, Campaigns, 2022 Elections

Original Author: Katherine Doyle

Original Location: Georgia Republican seeks to 're-fund' police amid public concerns about Biden's handling of crime


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