Concerns over crime critical in midterms for Election Focus Group (Pt. 1)

10 min read
1822 words
Tammy Joyner
Nov 02, 2022

Editor’s note: This is the fourth and final installment looking at key election issues through the lens of 10 Georgians heading into next week’s midterm election. This story is Part 1 of this week’s two-parter highlighting what the focus group has to say about crime. Part II will run tomorrow. The opinions expressed in this series are that of the participants and do not reflect the position of  this news outlet. Subscribe to State Affairs at stateaffairs.com to read all of our election coverage.

Crime occurs once every 2 minutes and 47 seconds in Georgia, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s 2021 Crime Statistics Summary Report, the latest data available.

Depending on where you live in the state, that stat may be familiar or foreign to you. In any case, crime is a top concern for Georgians — up there with inflation and abortion.

State Affairs’ Election Team members weighed in this week about crime, how it’s changing communities, how it can be solved, and which candidates have the right message and mettle to deal with rising crime.

Here’s what they had to say.

Yana Batra

Yana Batra, 18, Democrat and Georgia Tech freshman; first time voter

How concerned are you about crime in your community?

Naturally, everybody's concerned about crime in their community. I'm a young woman on a college campus in an urban area. So when I'm walking around at night,  when I'm going about my day, I'm concerned for my safety from that perspective.

In the context of rising crime as a scare tactic [in political ads and rhetoric] that kind of framing is not very useful because everybody is concerned about crime in their communities. When we’re talking about crime, it's more important to focus on the reality of who is committing crimes, who's being targeted, and what are the actual reasons behind rising crime and what real preventive measures exist to combat it. When we look at crime, it's really poor,  historically disadvantaged and disenfranchised communities that have to bear the brunt of that violence. The way to address that is not through highly politicized attack ads but actual reform in our communities.

There's been a recent rise in crime over the past few years which is really traceable to the pandemic, to poverty, etc. Instead, what we're hearing is that it's because of criminal justice reform, or it's happened in democratically-run cities. In fact, murders have risen equally in cities run by Republicans and Democrats.  

How does/did the issue of crime factor into your voting decisions in the upcoming midterm election?

It was very important to me, especially when I was looking at the attorney general and the governor's races. It's the way candidates approach the issue. 

[Gov. Brian] Kemp and his attorney general talk about the gang task force, even though street gangs actually don't contribute to a large chunk of violence in Georgia. Policies like cash-bail reform, increased funding for officers so they can receive better training and don't have to work  multiple jobs — policies [gubernatorial candidate] Stacey Abrams talks about resonate more with me when I look at what actually prevents crime and what is more of a scapegoat tactic.


Steve Brown

Steve Brown, 58, Republican lives in  Peachtree City with his wife; empty-nester

How concerned are you about crime in your community?

Here in Fayette County, we're pretty much a very conservative, hardline-on-crime kind of community, probably more so than any other county in metropolitan Atlanta. We don't want to see crime migrating in from other counties. We started seeing some of that, too. We have a lot of people who are being arrested for break ins, auto thefts, and they're not Fayette County residents. It's a major cultural shift for us. It's gone from the kind of naive, ‘It'll never happen here,’ to a kind of, ‘Oh, my gosh, what's happening?’

Crime is probably one of the top three issues in elections across the country. One thing we're seeing [is] it's not just that there are people committing crimes which are bad enough on its own, but we're also seeing the establishment, primarily district attorneys, who are not prosecuting the crimes and cashless bail and things like that. That just adds to the anxiety of the public. The district attorney [DA] in Philadelphia is on the verge of possibly being recalled. They did a recall of the DA in San Francisco. We're starting to see that across the country.

You're seeing people who are committing a crime. They're being arrested. They were processed. They were then let out on cashless bail. Now if they were shoplifting, that's one thing. If they physically assaulted somebody on the street, that's another thing entirely.  You're seeing people who are going through that cashless bail  process and then going and committing another crime the next day. And that's what's causing the anxiety. I don't see anybody saying we don't need to look at the criminal justice system and take a serious look at it and figure out what we need to do. But, allowing people to commit continuous crimes after being arrested and processed is not the way to do it. 

California and Texas and some certain cities have said they won't prosecute shoplifting under $950. So  what's that doing is encouraging shopping in a major way. Gangs have gotten involved in it now because it's become profitable.

How does/did the issue of crime factor into your voting decisions in the upcoming midterm election?

It really impacted me in the governor's race and in the senatorial race. 

[Gubernatorial candidate Stacey] Abrams has had a really hard time with the law enforcement issue. She’s fluctuated, depending on what forum she's talking to. In her last debate, she literally was accusing almost 127 sheriffs of racial profiling and all these other things.  She really needed to be careful with her words because if people are anxious about crime, the last thing you want to do, as a candidate, is tell people we're going to make things worse by making it harder for law enforcement to do their job. I think that's been Abrams’ Achilles’ heel this entire time. 

[Senator Raphael] Warnock tends to go with the policies whichever way the Biden administration is going and it hasn't been a very crime-fighting, pro-law enforcement position.


Kendall Edwards

Kendall Edwards, 28, farmer and precision agriculture consultant for a local tractor dealership; lives in Ocilla; single

How concerned are you about crime in your community?

Not concerned at all. I live in a very small, tight-knit community with a very low crime rate.

How does/did the issue of crime factor into your voting decisions in the upcoming midterm election?

 It’s not necessarily going to dictate whether the crime rate goes up or down in this election. 


Keith McCants

Keith McCants, 40, Democrat and factory worker married with three children; lives in Richmond Hill

How concerned are you about crime in your community?

Not so much. Where I live now is relatively calm. The kids know they can play without any danger or worry about anything happening like a shooting. 

Overall, I am concerned about the rise in crime. We need  more police officers on the street. Politicians need to provide more resources to them so they can combat crime. Just about everyone supports law enforcement because without law enforcement, it would be a wild, wild west around here. We need to fully fund our law enforcement officials so they can continue to serve us, to  ensure that our kids live in safe communities where they can play without the threat of shootings. So crime is an issue that is one of my concerns.

How does/did the issue of crime factor into your voting decisions in the upcoming midterm election?

It does factor into it somewhat. There’s been this backlash toward law enforcement over the last year. It’s crucial that we have politicians in office who fully back our law enforcement. They’re not perfect by any means but whenever we get in trouble who are we going to call? We’re going to call  the police or the sheriff.


Marla Thompson

Marla Thompson, 65, married college professor who lives in Riverdale; registered Democrat but votes according to issue

How concerned are you about crime in your community?

When you say my community, I look at my community not only as the immediate community I live in, but the community of the state of Georgia.  Georgia has the 22nd highest crime rate in the United States., with 400 crimes per 100,000 people. Georgia is slightly above the national average in many statistical crime categories.

So Senate Bill 319 was passed by the Georgia legislature which eliminates permit requirements for carrying firearms. Therefore, every breathing person over the age of 18, whether they are chronically crippled or crazy, can carry a gun. Yet, if you are registering to vote, or voting, obtaining a passport or trying to get a TSA card, there are a series of checks and balances that a person must produce in order to earn these rights. So the Constitutional Carry Act, which is now law in our state, no longer requires you to get a permit or license to be eligible to carry a firearm in Georgia. That is just crazy. And that's the reason why crime seems to be up all over the state. Almost every day, somebody is negatively impacted by the reality that individuals can carry a gun.

How does/did the issue of crime factor into your voting decisions in the upcoming midterm election?

Everyone desires to live in a safe environment. But when you have laws on the books that allow criminals to run the asylum, [and you have] major corporations not considering bringing a national convention to your state  because of the crime rate, that really should give us pause. People should think, ‘Wait a minute, what's really going on here?’  

So it definitely impacts who I would vote for. 

Want to participate in the conversation? Share your thoughts on social media: 

Twitter @STATEAFFAIRSGA

Facebook @STATEAFFAIRSUS

LinkedIn  @STATE AFFAIRS

Contact Tammy Joyner at TAMMY@STATEAFFAIRS.COM or on Twitter @LVJOYNER.

Catch-up with our E-Team:

STATE AFFAIRS SELECTS 10 GEORGIANS FOR ELECTION TEAM FOCUS GROUP

GEORGIA VOTES: INFLATION REMAINS TOP OF MIND FOR GEORGIANS

GEORGIA VOTES: INFLATION REMAINS TOP OF MIND FOR GEORGIANS (PT. 2)

ELECTION FOCUS GROUP: ON HEALTH CARE COSTS, MEDICAID EXPANSION AND ABORTION RIGHTS (PT.1)

ELECTION FOCUS GROUP: ON HEALTH CARE COSTS, MEDICAID EXPANSION AND ABORTION RIGHTS (PT. 2)

ELECTION FOCUS GROUP (PT. 1): DEMOCRACY FACES CHALLENGES, BUT OPTIMISM REMAINS STRONG

ELECTION FOCUS GROUP (PT. 2): DEMOCRACY FACES CHALLENGES, BUT OPTIMISM REMAINS STRONG

CONCERNS OVER CRIME CRITICAL IN MIDTERMS (PT 2): ELECTION FOCUS GROUP

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