Georgia state troopers are best known for chasing speeders outside towns like Buford and Tye Tye. Now, some of them are about to join Atlanta's fight against big-city crime.
Mayor Maynard Jackson said he is "like to accept Gov. George Busbee's offer to commit as many as 60 state troopers and perhaps 15 Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents to the 1,100-member Atlanta police force's fight against rising street crime. Last year, according to preliminary data from the FBI, the city experienced more crime per capita than any of the nation's other 40 largest cities. In 1978, Atlanta also reported the highest annual crime rate increase (18 percent) of any large city.
Details of what the mayor called an "extraordinary" move are to be worked out by state and local officials this weekend, Jackson said.
The mayor said he wants the troopers used to free traffic police for work on "more serious crime," Jackson said.
Tom Perdue, Busbee's top negotiator on the offer, said Friday he does not foresee troopers "just writing traffic tickets," but added that the governor is flexible.
"We are not going to move hysterically," said the mayor. "I want to say to the citizens of Atlanta, be cool, don't panic. We are going to solve our crime problem."
Busbee said he had been urged to act by Atlanta business leaders, who have responded with alarm to a murder rate 67 percent higher than last year's and armed robberies totaling 200 to 300 a month.
The governor said Atlanta's crime problem hurts the city's drive to attract new business and maintain its tourist draw. About 75,000 people work in the city's tourist and convention industry.
Tourist officials were among the most enthusiastic greeters of the Busbee move. City police voiced reservations about the troopers' role.
An Atlanta narcotics detective predicted surprises on both sides if troopers deal with violent crime.
"I'm not jealous of the man who goes to Techwood or Perry Homes for the first time," he said, referring to public housing projects with persistent crime problems.
"I'm not jealous for the people either," said the detective, who asked not be named. "They'll get the surprise of their life."
In such cases, "troopers would be more aggressive, more protective of themselves" than Atlanta officers, he suggested.
Busbee's proposal came one day after the Wall Street Journal printed a front page story that set off a city-wide debate about the extent of Atlanta crime.
The story cited a lack of police visibility on Atlanta streets and at one point compared the city to a "war zone."
City Hall called the story one sided. Except for tourist officials business leaders viewed the article as generally accurate.
The "war zone" comparison was made by Leonard Freeman, president of the Society of Nuclear Medicine. A member of the society, Dr. Marc Tetalman of Columbus, Ohio, was shot to death on a downtown Atlanta street June 28 while attending a convention here.
But the Radiological Society of North America said this week it would meet in Atlanta, despite the fears of some members after Tetalman's death in a robbert attempt.
The professional group, which expects a gathering here of 14,000 from Nov. 29 to Dec. 3, made its announcement after it got "impressive" assurances about the city's safety from the mayor and top business officials Wednesday, said its chairman, Dr. Milton Elkin. The assurances principally concerned the city's plans to put more desk officers on patrol.
As the crime problem got special attention, Atlanta recorded its 141st homicide this year, compared with 143 murders in all of last year.
An apartment dweller in a low-income area near downtown was stabbed three times in the back Wednesday. His face was held down in a driveway by one man while another wielded the knife, witnesses to the attack said.
The victim, Fred J. Rivers, 39, had been seen arguing earlier Wednesday with the two men. They fled and have not been found. CAPTION: Picture, MAYOR MAYNARD JACKSON..."be cool; don't panic"