ATLANTA — A passionate Fani Willis told a Georgia House committee on Monday that her Fulton County District Attorney’s office desperately needs stronger laws and more resources to fight crime in her county.

“It’s frightening how many crimes and criminals we are leaving on the street,” said Willis, who ousted incumbent Fulton County DA Paul Howard in 2020. “We cannot do this job in the Dark Ages anymore. We have to come into 2021.”

Willis was testifying before the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, which has been holding hearings for months on Atlanta’s crime rate. State Rep. J Collins, R-Villa Rica, the committee’s chairman, said the panel has been charged with coming up with solutions to the problems.

Willis, who spent 16 years as a Fulton County prosecutor before defeating the six-term Howard, said Atlanta had the fastest-rising crime rate of any major U.S. city during the pandemic.

“As of now, there are 636 defendants indicted for murder in my office,” Willis said. “A total of 208 have been indicted since March, and 184 are waiting to be indicted before the end of the year or they will be released on bond.”

Willis said murders in Fulton County have increased by 48% since 2020 and put special emphasis on combating gang crimes

“There are 71,000 gang members in Georgia,” she said, “and 50,000 of those are in metro Atlanta. “I have to ask for more gang task forces in Georgia.”

Willis also pointed to backlogs in DNA testing, trace evidence collections, and firearms and toxicology reports. 

“In Fulton County, there are 15,000 unworked case reports over the last 30 days,” she said. “Because of the backlog in processing unworked sexual assault kits over the last days, there have been 1,575 preventable crimes.”

“What kinds of criminal scientists do we need in Georgia today?” asked committee Vice Chairman Danny Mathis, R-Cochran. 

“We need every area,” Willis said. “We need forensic biologists, DNA experts. We need a wide variety of scientists. We’re losing good scientists — great scientists — because of pay and other issues.” 

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.