Ebenezer Baptist Church hosted a town hall to brief community members on the upcoming July launch of the Atlanta/Fulton County Pre-Arrest Diversion Initiative. During the pilot year of the initiative, beat officers from the City of Atlanta Police Department’s Zones 5 and 6 will identify 100-150 non-violent individuals caught in the revolving door of the criminal justice system to receive housing, social services, and other assistance to break the cycle of arrests, court trials, and jail time in which they have been trapped for years. The beats selected for the year-long pilot include portions of Downtown, Midtown, and the Old Fourth Ward. Most of the beats are in Atlanta City Council District 2.
The town hall was the culmination of more than four years of work by community activists, city and county elected officials, and the staff of many departments from the City of Atlanta and Fulton County.
In April 2015, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners adopted six strategic priority areas, one of which was “All People are Safe”. A strategy outlined within the “All People are Safe” priority area was to create more effective approaches to addressing the increasing populations of mentally ill, drug/alcohol-dependent, and homeless individuals that are overwhelming the public safety system.” The Board sought, as a strategic measure, to address the number of individuals that suffer from mental and substance abuse illnesses who are arrested and incarcerated. The most effective practices across the nation illustrate that Pre-Arrest Diversion Initiatives have a significant impact on (1) quality of life improvement in communities, (2) reducing the number of inmates in jail facilities, and (3) the successful, redirection of the mentally ill and those suffering from addiction to receipt of services that result in reduced contact with the Criminal Justice System.
APD Chief Erika Shields was a member of the Design Team for the initiative when she was Deputy Chief of Police. Since her appointment as Chief of Police at the start of 2017, she has sent a clear message of support.
“Pre-Arrest Diversion provides the tools our officers are asking for to help communities address the challenges of drug addiction, mental illness and poverty. We know we cannot arrest our way out of the problem, and we know that our officers cannot do it alone. But with PAD we can be a vital part of helping people put their lives back together.”