Criminals, Homeless Targeted for OlympicsAP , Associated Press
Mar. 21, 1996 6:30 PM ET
ATLANTA (AP) _ Local officials want to help rid the city of crime and homeless people before the Olympics with stricter loitering laws and one-way bus tickets out of town.
In a separate plan, the federal government will try to sweep career offenders from the streets by adding four prosecutors in the U.S. attorney's office to target felons with handguns and people making bomb threats before or during the Games.
Fulton County is paying the bill for one-way bus tickets for the homeless as long as the recipient promises never to return and can prove he has a family or job waiting at his destination, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Thursday.
Advocates for the homeless say Project Homeward Bound, which is funded by a county grant, proves Atlanta's hospitality does not extend to everyone.
``They have you sign a statement that you won't return,'' said Robert Farrell, president of the Atlanta Union of the Homeless.
Mitch Skandalakis, chairman of the Fulton County Commission, said he had never heard of the grant or the program and he planned to check into it.
Project director Willie Chappell said the program is aimed at eliminating homeless people from ``continuing to be a drain on the social service agencies in Fulton County.''
Chappell said hundreds of people have been sent home under the program, which he said started in 1994 but was revised in February to add the no-return provision.
Meanwhile, a City Hall session on the loitering ordinance drew about 200 people Wednesday night, evenly divided between advocates for the homeless and representatives of downtown businesses.
The ordinance would allow police to arrest anyone seen trying door handles, looking in cars suspiciously or carrying tools that could be used to break into a vehicle. Convictions could result in six months in jail.
``We need to be looking at each other and sharing our goods and building what Dr. King stood for, the beloved community where everyone is welcome,'' said the Rev. Ed Loring of the Open Door Community homeless shelter, who opposed the ordinance.
But the Rev. Joseph Roberts of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was pastor, said visitors to the area should not have to fear auto theft and vandalism.
``Anything that can be done to protect the experience of someone who comes to see the greatest proponent of non-violence and where he lived would be helpful to us,'' said Roberts, whose church is near the King Center and King's birth home.
U.S. Attorney Kent Alexander said his office has four new prosecutors to handle the increased caseload of a new initiative dubbed ``Operation Safe Streets.''
``When all is said and done after the Olympics, I want the people to remember the medals and not crime on the streets of Atlanta,'' Alexander said.
The news follows recent comments by Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers, who suggested the war-torn streets of Sarajevo, Bosnia, are safer than Atlanta's.
Alexander said the request for additional prosecutors was submitted to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno last September. He declined to comment on Bowers' remarks, except to say, ``We have no plans to issue flak jackets to these new attorneys.''