Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens touts public safety agenda while threat of Buckhead cityhood looms
LISTEN: Atlanta Mayor Andres Dickens reassures Buckhead residents he's working to thwart crime in the community. GPB's Riley Bunch reports.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, fresh off the end of his first year in office, told Buckhead residents on Monday that he has been “intentional” about dedicating time to the community.
At the Rotary Club of Buckhead meeting in an upstairs dining room of Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant, Dickens gave an overview of his first 12 months in office — with a heavy focus on how his administration is working to combat high rates of violent crime.
“We have been very intentional about strengthening the ties between City Hall and Buckhead — from public safety to our business community to our parks and neighborhoods,” he said. “... Being able to work with Buckhead community members and members across the community is important to me. We have always kept our doors open to be able to hear concerns and address them as quickly as possible.”
His comments came mere hours after state lawmakers kicked off the 2023 legislative session just 10 miles away under the Gold Dome.
Last year, Dickens faced an effort by some residents in Buckhead to secede from the city of Atlanta altogether, citing a concern over the city’s public safety response in the north Atlanta community.
A proposal to separate Buckhead from Atlanta was floated by a group of Republican lawmakers during the 2022 session but was ultimately shot down. But with new leadership in both the House and the Senate, it’s unclear what the appetite is to revive the measure.
Since last session, violent crimes in Buckhead and Atlanta has continued to make headlines. Over the holidays, Buckhead was shocked by the death of 77-year-old Eleanor Bowles who was found fatally stabbed and her car stolen from the garage of her home in a gated Buckhead community.
According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Buckhead City Committee — which is leading the secession effort — used the incident to solicit donations, not to Bowles' family or public safety initiatives, but to its legislative efforts. The move garnered heavy criticism.
During his speech Monday, Dickens underscored his efforts to crack down on crime with the creation of a new police precinct in Buckhead, which opened in June. He cited statistics from the Atlanta Police Department that crime rates in the area have fallen in all categories except shoplifting. The same report shows crime citywide has not see any change overall since this time last year.
“There is hardly any crime-free cities in America and our city has not been immune to that as well,” he said. “But we are not letting up on our efforts as we work to address the city's public safety needs.”
Buckhead cityhood supporters have indicated they’re not giving up on the effort to create their own city. A social media account promoting the idea tweeted with enthusiasm about this year’s lobbying push.
Lt. Gov. Burt Jones was also a co-sponsor on Buckhead cityhood legislation last session, creating a potential opening for further movement. But Dickens reassured Buckhead residents he would continue to build his relationship with state leaders he has worked hard to cultivate.
“I told you a year ago that I draw circles and I don't draw lines," Dickens said at the rotary meeting, before referencing a line from the fight song of his Georgia Tech alma mater. "I'm a hell of an engineer. I can draw just about anything. ...But I choose to draw circles, bringing us all together, working with the state across the street, working with those state legislators, as well as our governor and lieutenant governor. And I've been true to do that over this last year.”