Gov. Brian Kemp signed a package of public safety bills Monday, one day after he and Republican primary challenger former U.S. Sen. David Perdue clashed over the crime issue during a televised debate.
“Public safety is the No.-1 responsibility of the government,” Kemp said during a signing ceremony in the Buckhead section of Atlanta, an area he called an “epicenter” of growing crime.
“The rise in crime we’ve been facing in many communities across Georgia due to soft-on-crime policies and officials is unacceptable to me, it’s unacceptable to our law enforcement and it’s certainly unacceptable to the people that we serve,” he said.
Among the bills Kemp signed was legislation giving Georgia’s attorney general the authority to prosecute gang activity along with local prosecutors.
“Gangs do not confine their activities to one jurisdiction,” he said. “When they traffic drugs, illegal weapons and people, they don’t stop at county lines.”
The governor also signed bills allowing suspected child molesters to be charged separately for each image of child pornography or incident of child molestation and allowing separate charges for each illegal firearm seized from a suspect.
Another part of the package Kemp signed Monday increases penalties for fleeing or eluding law enforcement. And he signed a workforce development measure providing tuition reimbursement to former service members who enroll in training to become a law enforcement officer.
The governor also touted investments in law enforcement in the fiscal 2023 budget the General Assembly adopted this month, including a $5,000 pay raise for state law enforcement personnel, the addition of a new state trooper class and the addition of law enforcement and criminal justice to the high-demand degree programs that quality for tuition breaks.
“We will use every resource at our disposal to rid our communities of crime and keep Georgia families safe,” Kemp said.
During Sunday night’s debate, Perdue blamed Kemp for the rising crime rate in Georgia by not hiring enough state troopers. Perdue said North Carolina has twice as many troopers as Georgia, although the states are roughly equal in population.
“If we don’t get crime and education fixed, we are not going to have economic development,” Perdue said.
Kemp responded by citing the successes of the multi-agency Crime Suppression Unit he formed in April of last year, including the arrests of 745 suspects on outstanding warrants – 26 on murder charges.