An increase in violent crime reported by the Sandy Springs Police Department in the city in 2020 matches national trends shown in the increase in homicides and aggravated assaults during the year of the pandemic and social unrest.

The SSPD’s annual report said the overall rate of reported crime was down 8% from 2019. 

More violent crimes, including aggravated assault, robbery and murder were reported in 2020 than in 2019, the SSPD reported in the city’s “2020 Year in Review” document. For property crimes, vehicle theft and arson showed an increase in 2020. Larceny, entering auto and burglary cases dropped in 2020 from the previous year’s figures.

Homicides, aggravated assaults and gun assaults began increasing dramatically over 2019 numbers in late May 2020, according to “Pandemic, Social Unrest and Crime in U.S. Cities,” a report on 2020’s national crime rates produced by the Washington, D.C. think tank the Council on Criminal Justice.

The think tank’s report said it wasn’t clear why reports of those crimes increased. That timing coincides with the start of racial justice protests over George Floyd’s death at the hands of police. Criminologists in the report say it’s too soon to tell whether there is any connection.

Crime statistics come with many qualifications. Not all crimes are reported to police, and some that are reported turn out not to be crimes or are classified as different offenses later. 

The six homicides investigated by SSPD in 2020 is an example of the statistical complications. In SSPD’s annual compilation of statistics on serious crime that is submitted to the FBI, it counted only four killings, because those were the ones classified as murders; two vehicular homicides are considered lesser offenses. And of those four murder investigations, one case was later ruled to be self-defense, so the 2020 murder rate is actually lower than SSPD officially reported.

Less than two months into 2021, the city already had recorded two murders. A triple shooting in an apartment on Hammond Drive in Sandy Springs left two people dead and another hospitalized Feb. 11. 

The six homicide cases in 2020 included:

  • On April 24, Felix Meyer, 57, was struck and killed while riding his bicycle on Glenridge Drive north of I-285, according to the Sandy Springs Police Department. Leonardo Angulo Banos, 42, of Norcross, was arrested the next day and charged in his death.
  • On Aug. 19, a pedestrian was killed in a vehicular hit-and-run death of a pedestrian on Ga. 400. Hugo Rodriguez-Perez, 34, was arrested at a residence in Douglasville.
  • On June 6, Sherika Monique Little, 24, of Wadesboro, North Carolina, was found inside a car suffering from a gunshot wound at the Hilton Atlanta Perimeter Suites Hotel at 6120 Peachtree-Dunwoody Road in Perimeter Center. She was later pronounced dead at a hospital. Fortune Jaquan Spencer, 25, of Lilesville, North Carolina, was arrested and charged in her death and in carjackings and attempted carjackings after the shooting.
  • On Oct. 7, a person was killed at a home on Hammond Drive. SSPD originally classified the killing as a murder but later ruled it to be self-defense.
  • On Dec. 9, a 2-year-old child died under care of a babysitter. The babysitter, Kirstie Hanna Flood, 20, and Flood’s boyfriend, Jeffrey Scott Meyers, 28, both of Sandy Springs, were charged with murder in connection with the child’s death.
  • On Dec. 14, Najahan Khan, 22, was shot to death at an apartment complex at 5555 Roswell Road. SSPD said Khan was a home invader who accidentally shot himself while beating a victim with a gun. Najahan Khan’s brother, Ishmael Levi Khan, 20, of Peach County, was charged with felony murder as an alleged accomplice in the crime.

In other 2020 crime stats, aggravated assault cases also increased, with 93 reported, up by 6 from 2019 and 22 from 2018.

Rape reports have remained about the same in the city for the past three years, with 10 reported in 2020 and 2019, and nine in 2018.

Domestic violence cases increased by 26% from January through May of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

In property crimes, SSPD reported 726 larceny cases in 2020. That was almost 100 fewer cases than the 822 reported in 2019, which in turn was lower than the 855 cases in 855.

Fewer motorists were victims of entering-auto crimes in 2020. The 690 incidents were 50 fewer than reports for 2019. A bigger drop was seen between 2018 and 2019, falling from 814 to 740 incidents.

Vehicle thefts rose last year with 178 reported compared to the 156 in 2019. Both years were below the nearly 200 thefts recorded in 2018.

More than 200 burglaries were reported in 2020, but that was still 63 fewer than the 275 burglaries reported in 2019. The SSPD investigated 141 more burglaries in 2018, answering the call 353 times.

After dropping to 34 in 2019, SSPD investigated 45 robbery cases last year, which was slightly lower than the 50 in 2018.

Arson cases increased in 2020, but that was an increase by one to three for the year. In 2018 the city reported eight arson cases.

In traffic cases, officers issued 5,449 tickets to people accused of speeding in 2020, up significantly from 2019, when 4,295 tickets were issued. Out of the 2020 tickets, 239 alleged driving at 100 mph or more, a large increase from the 56 in 2019.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.