Crime rates* (2021)
Violent crimes
Aggravated assault633.5
Property crimes
Motor vehicle theft921.4

*Number of reported crimes per 100,000 population.

** Legacy definition[1]

Source: FBI 2015 UCR data

Crime in Atlanta, Georgia is above the national median and has been a major problem for the city since the middle 20th century.

Atlanta’s public safety improvement between 2001 and 2009 occurred at more than twice the rate of the rest of the country.[2] After ranking in the top five highest violent crime cities for most of the previous three decades, in 2009 Atlanta ranked 31st,[2] and in 2015, 24/7 Wall Street ranked it 19th.[3] While various news sources report rankings by crime rate, FBI strongly cautions against comparing different cities' crime rates, as such a misuse of bare statistics ignores various important factors, such as population density, degree of urbanization, composition of population, economic conditions, etc.[4]


An Atlanta police car

During the 1970s, like with many large cities within the United States, Atlanta's population began to decline. By 1990, the population was 394,017, down almost 20% from its population in 1970, which was 496,973.[5] In addition, the city center and surrounding areas began to go through an urban decay, and crime spiked significantly throughout the 1980s. Along with many other major cities in the United States, Atlanta was hard hit by the crack epidemic of most of the 1980s to early 1990s. In 1994, Atlanta was ranked the most dangerous city in the country by the Morgan Quitno Press.[6]

In 1997, drug-related crime in metro Atlanta increased slightly, in part due to Atlanta becoming an important distribution center for cocaine, and other related drugs imported from Mexico.[7][8] These increases were mostly seen in Fulton, Gwinnett, DeKalb, Cobb, and Clayton counties. Many law enforcement agencies in the area have joined forces together with the Atlanta Police Department in an effort to decrease the overall crime in metro Atlanta.[9]

In addition, due to large amounts of revitalization projects in the city core, crime continued to fall, even amidst the hard economic times of the late-2000s/early 2010s.[5]


The city is served by the Atlanta Police Department. In 2013, the APD had 2,000 officers,[10][11][12] but the number of officers has decreased since that time.[10] Mayor Kasim Reed has identified an increase in the number of officers to 2,000 as a goal for the city.[10] Although city data shows that APD attrition rates have improved from the 2000s to 2013, morale issues within the police department has persisted due to officer dissatisfaction with salaries.[11] About 45 percent of officers hired between 2005 and 2013 left the force by 2017.[13] Atlanta is divided into six police patrol zones.[14]

According to data collected by a police violence tracking website, there were 168 lethal incidents involving police between 2000 and 2021, roughly 8 people killed per year by police.[15]

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), which operates rail, bus, and parking lots in the city and surrounding area, has its own police force. Overall crime rates in are about 30 per every 100,000 system daily riders, which is identical to the crime figure for the Washington, D.C., area's WMATA, higher than crime figure for the Boston area's MBTA, and lower than the crime figure for the San Francisco area's BART. Homicides within the MARTA system have varied. In the fiscal year ending in 2017, for example, there were four homicides investigated by MARTA police, but there were no homicides in the MARTA system in any of the previous last four fiscal years.[16] Total crimes in the MARTA system have declined from fiscal year 2013.[16]

Crime rates and trends

From 2009 to 2016, overall crime in Atlanta declined 27 percent, "with sharp declines in burglaries (9,102 in 2009 to 4,377 in 2016), robberies (2,622 to 1,914) and aggravated assaults (2,602 to 2,179)."[13]

According to data from the City of Atlanta,[17] overall crime has continued to decline from 2016 to 2021 at a rate of about 26 percent. The only exception is the uptick between years 2020 and 2021 (which can be explained by dramatically reduced crime occurrences due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns). Nevertheless, the overall trend—including the 13.89 percent decline from 2019 to 2021—still suggests a reduction in overall crime and crime rate. Homicides and aggravated assaults, however, did rise between the years 2019 and 2022.

Crime occurrences by category from 2009 to 2022[18]
Year Aggravated assault Auto theft Burglary Homicide Larceny from vehicle Larceny non-vehicle Robbery Total
2009 2613 5625 9075 77 10966 8295 2675 39326
2010 2612 4996 7985 89 9176 8510 2161 35529
2011 2536 5205 7404 84 8589 8723 2311 34852
2012 2521 5098 6151 83 8825 8438 2266 33382
2013 2275 4483 5947 81 9343 7905 2364 32398
2014 2238 4142 5466 87 9459 7353 2370 31115
2015 2156 4236 4784 87 9593 7044 2158 30058
2016 2193 3849 4376 114 9995 6564 1915 29006
2017 2036 3195 3394 86 9826 6433 1416 26386
2018 1825 3219 3023 88 10259 6145 1052 25611
2019 2037 2969 2797 104 9525 6400 1018 24850
2020 699 1158 481 44 3322 1268 277 7249
2021 2483 3115 1636 149 8073 5135 806 21397
2022 3192 3221 1791 170 8049 3375 706 22259


Consistent with national trends, the murder rate in Atlanta peaked in 1990 and has declined since.[19] From 2000 to 2010, murders in the city declined by nearly 50 percent.[13] The years 2009 and 2012 had the lowest numbers of homicides in Atlanta than any year dating back to 1963,[20] but there has been an increase in murders in the city beginning in 2013.[13] The number of murders in Atlanta was 80 in 2009, 92 in 2010, 88 in 2011, 85 in 2012, 82 in 2013, 93 in 2014, 95 in 2015, and 111 in 2016.[13] A significant number of murders have remained unsolved; as of February 2017, 51 of the 111 homicides from 2016 remain unsolved.[10]

An analysis of FBI Uniform Crime Report data for 2015, conducted by the economic analysis website 24/7 Wall Street, showed a murder rate in Atlanta of about 20.2 per 100,000 people, making it the 18th highest murder rate among U.S. cities.[21] A October 2016 FiveThirtyEight analysis of preliminary 2016 data, taken from official police information and local reports, found that among U.S. cities with populations of over a quarter-million people, Atlanta had the tenth-highest murder rate, at 23.9 per 100,000 residents.[22]

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said that 17% of 2014 homicides in the county were gang-related.[23] In Atlanta, guns were involved in 82% of homicide cases.[21] In July 2016, in an attempt to combat an increase in homicide, the city began Operation Whiplash, with additional police officers and other resources assigned to 33 "challenging and crime-ridden" neighborhoods in the city.[13][24]

Homicide investigations have increased in the city for three consecutive years (excluding 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic) from 2019 to 2022.[25] In 2022, Atlanta police investigated 170 homicides which is the most since 1996.[26] In 2023, the Atlanta Police Department implemented Operation Heatwave which is a strategic initiative to remove more dangerous drugs, guns, and gangs from the streets of Atlanta.[27]

Gang crime

Street gangs of various levels of sophistication have had a notable presence in the city since the late 1970s. In 2015, Atlanta police were tracking about 192 gangs, more than double the number identified six years earlier.[23] In addition to violent crime, drug dealing, and carjacking, some Atlanta gangs commit identity theft and credit card fraud.[28] Also, gang-on-gang violence is a major problem in the city.[29]

The gang problem in Atlanta is more dynamic because some gang operations in the area are sponsored by popular local artists in the hip-hop music industry. For example, Atlanta based artists Young Thug, YFN Lucci, and Gunna were indicted on serious gang-related charges.[30][31][32] In 2022, there was a 200% increase in gang-related charges in the city.[33] In 2023, Money Inc named Atlanta the third worst gang city in the U.S.[34] Also in 2023, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Gang Task Force counted about 1,000 gangs in the Atlanta area and stated they are responsible for at least 70% of all crime. The GBI Gang Task Force collaborates with Atlanta police to dismantle gang activity in the area.[35]

Human trafficking

Main article: Human trafficking in Georgia (U.S. state) § Atlanta

Atlanta is now a major transportation hub when it comes to trafficking young girls from Mexico and is one of the fourteen U.S. cities with the highest levels of sex trafficking of children.[36]

In the year of 2007 the sex trade generated $290 million in Atlanta.[37] This number derives from the study "Estimating the Size and Structure of the Underground Commercial Sex Economy in Eight Major US Cities"[38] by the Urban Institute,[39] with 18 interviews[38]: 121  conducted in Atlanta, and includes "prostitutes, massage parlors, and brothels" including both "pimp controlled" and "non-pimp controlled".[38]: 122  In the study, human trafficking is defined in the section "Background on the Prevalence of Human Trafficking in the United States" as "any sex act in exchange for which anything of value is given to or received by any person (e.g., prostitution).".[38]: 7 

Since Atlanta has “the same ready access to commercial air and ground routes that draws businesses and travelers to Atlanta also entices criminals engaged in human trafficking”. There are numerous events and conventions in Atlanta that bring many people to the city which also amplifies the issue.[36]

In 2023, Atlanta ranked second only behind Washington, D.C. in human trafficking activity. The majority of gangs in Atlanta are involved in human trafficking . The average age of a child being bought and sold is between 12 and 14 years old.[40]

Notable incidents

See also


  1. ^ "FBI". Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  2. ^ a b Edwards, David (November 1, 2010). "How to create a safer Atlanta". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on November 9, 2010. Retrieved January 25, 2017.
  3. ^ The Most Dangerous Cities in America, page 3, 24/7 Wall Street, September 27, 2016. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  4. ^ ""Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics: Their Proper Use"". Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  5. ^ a b Population Division, Laura K. Yax. "Population of the 100 Largest Cities and Other Urban Places In The United States: 1790 to 1990". Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  6. ^ The First Safest/Most Dangerous City Listing. Morgan Quitno Press. Lawrence, Kansas, United States. 1994.
  7. ^ "Major cocaine and marijuana ring busted in Atlanta". September 17, 2008. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  8. ^ "Mexican drug cartel busted up in Atlanta". October 29, 2008. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  9. ^ "Police join forces for metro Atlanta crime sweep |". Archived from the original on 2009-05-31. Retrieved 2009-06-09.
  10. ^ a b c d Becca J. G. Godwin, 51 Atlanta homicides from 2016 remain unsolved. These are the victims, Atlanta Journal Constitution (February 15, 2017).
  11. ^ a b Jonathan Shapiro, 2,000 Atlanta Police Officers, But Gripes Remain Over Pay, WABE (October 25, 2013).
  12. ^ Katie Leslie, APD reaches a once-elusive goal of 2,000 officers, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (October 25, 2013).
  13. ^ a b c d e f Christian Boone, Murders in Atlanta are way up, but overall crime is way down, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (January 31, 2017).
  14. ^ "Atlanta Police Department : Zone Maps". Archived from the original on 16 October 2017. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  15. ^ "Searches – Fatal Encounters". Retrieved 2022-12-16.
  16. ^ a b Joshua Sharpe, After recent killings, how safe is MARTA?, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (February 16, 2017).
  17. ^ "Crime Data Downloads | Atlanta Police Department".
  18. ^ Data are aggregated by Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) categories from City of Atlanta COBRA crime data downloads Note: Burglary and robbery categories from the City of Atlanta are reported in multiple categories during the years 2009-2019 (burglary non-residence, burglary residence, robbery commercial, robbery pedestrian, and robbery residence). These categories have been combined to match data from 2020 and 2021.
  19. ^ Bryan Cronan, The Homicide Report, Atlanta Magazine (May 15, 2014).
  20. ^ Marcus K. Garner, Atlanta homicides 2nd lowest in 50 years, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (January 10, 2013).
  21. ^ a b Fiza Pirani, Atlanta named one of America's top 'murder capitals', Atlanta Journal-Constitution (November 2, 2016).
  22. ^ Jeff Asher, A Handful Of Cities Are Driving 2016's Rise In Murders, FiveThirtyEight (October 6, 2016).
  23. ^ a b Christian Boone, Violent crime fueled by gangs on the rise in Atlanta, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (July 1, 2015).
  24. ^ As murder rate rises, Atlanta aims to get guns off streets, Associated Press (July 5, 2016).
  25. ^ "Atlanta homicides increased for third consecutive year in 2022, data shows". FOX 5 Atlanta. 2023-01-06. Retrieved 2023-11-14.
  26. ^ "Trump Called Atlanta a Violent Crime War Zone. Is That True?". Governing. 2023-08-22. Retrieved 2023-11-14.
  27. ^ "Crackdown on gangs, guns and drugs: How 'Operation Heatwave' is making a difference in Atlanta". 2023-08-31. Retrieved 2023-11-14.
  28. ^ Crime in Atlanta: Fighting back: What gangs can offer young Asian-Americans, The Economist (July 11, 2016).
  29. ^ "3 gang members arrested after opening fire on rival in broad daylight". WSB-TV Channel 2 - Atlanta. 2022-10-22. Retrieved 2023-11-14.
  30. ^
  31. ^ Lee, Christina (2022-10-12). "How Atlanta Created a Gang Stereotype of Its Hip-Hop Community". Vulture. Retrieved 2023-11-14.
  32. ^ "In Atlanta, Everybody Influences Everything For Better And Worse". Atlanta, GA Patch. 2021-06-21. Retrieved 2023-11-14.
  33. ^ Whittler, Alex (2022-11-21). "Atlanta police say tactics in fight against rising gang activity are working". FOX 5 Atlanta. Retrieved 2023-11-14.
  34. ^ Hanson, Dana (2023-03-19). "The 20 Worst Gang Cities in the U.S." Money Inc. Retrieved 2023-11-14.
  35. ^ Kousouris, Abby (2023-06-07). "Gang Task Force cracking down on gangs in Georgia". Retrieved 2023-11-14.
  36. ^ a b "Civil Rights Prosecutions: Human Trafficking | USAO | Department of Justice". Archived from the original on 2016-05-09. Retrieved 2016-04-18.
  37. ^ "Georgia Laws". Street Grace, Inc. Retrieved 2016-04-18.
  38. ^ a b c d "Estimating the Size and Structure of the Underground Commercial Sex Economy in Eight Major US Cities" (PDF). Retrieved 2019-01-31.
  39. ^ "The Urban Institute". Retrieved 2019-02-01.
  40. ^ "'A big problem in Georgia'". 2023-02-01. Retrieved 2023-11-14.