A leader in the movement for the wealthy Atlanta suburb of Buckhead to secede from the city has blasted the mayor over rising crime in the area, saying a 'divorce' is inevitable.
'We filed our divorce papers at the city of Atlanta and our divorce is final,' said Bill White, the CEO of the Buckhead City Committee, in an interview with Fox News on Thursday.
White slammed Atlanta city leadership, including Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, accusing her of ignoring soaring crime in Buckhead and presiding over a demoralized and underfunded police department.
It follows a shocking shooting in Buckhead on June 5, when father-of-three Andrew Worrell was struck twice by bullets while jogging at around 8.35am. He survived and has since been released from hospital to recover at home.
'They are just not paying attention to the crime. The leadership vacuum is substantial,' White said of Atlanta's elected officials.
'I don't like saying anything bad about Mayor Bottoms. I'm sure she is a nice human being ... but she has completely let our officers down,' he added.
'We filed our divorce papers at the city of Atlanta and our divorce is final,' said Bill White, the CEO of the Buckhead City Committee, which is leading the secession push
Mayor Bottoms is seen on Wednesday signing an order to make Atlanta's city-owned bathrooms all-gender. Critics say she isn't doing enough to address violent crime
Father-of-three Andrew Worrell was struck twice by bullets while jogging the morning of June 5. He survived and has since been released from hospital to recover at home
'They feel demoralized, underpaid, underrecognized and being told not to fight crime in the way they would like to,' added White.
'We love the Atlanta police department but we'll form Buckhead City with its own police department, with significantly greater presence on the streets.'
A spokesperson for Mayor Bottoms did not immediately respond to an inquiry from DailyMail.com on Thursday evening regarding rising crime rates in Buckhead.
Bottoms, who was on President Joe Biden's shortlist of potential VP picks, has remained active on other fronts this week, on Wednesday signing an order declaring all of Atlanta's city-owned bathroom 'all-gender'.
The crime spike in Buckhead so far this year has alarmed residents. Through last week, aggravated assaults were up 52 percent in the wealthy enclave, compared to a rise of 26 percent citywide, according to an analysis of police data by WXIA-TV.
Robberies citywide were up just 2 percent, but in Buckhead they are up 39 percent, while larceny from automobiles rose 40 percent in Buckhead and 27 percent citywide.
Residents of Buckhead anticipate a referendum next year will allow them to secede from Atlanta. The boundaries of their proposed new city are seen above
Citywide crime statistics (above) show crime rising across Atlanta, but rates are jumping even faster in Buckhead, where aggravated assaults were up 52 percent
BUCKHEAD, GEORGIA: ONE OF THE NATION'S WEALTHIEST ZIP CODES
Buckhead is known as Atlanta's commercial and residential district, famed for its high-rise buildings and shopping centers, hotels and mansions.
The neighborhood is a historically wealthy district and was once ranked the ninth richest zip code in the country with a median price of homes of $1,460,595, according to Forbes.
American suburban luxury home in Buckhead, Atlanta
Bloomberg named Buckhead the 20th richest zipcode in the nation in 2011, when the average household net worth there was $1,353,189.
The average household income was $280,631.
Because of this, Buckhead is often called the 'Beverly Hills of the East/South', in reference to the upscale city in California.
Buckhead is also known to have a few notable residents, including Georgia Republican Kelly Loeffler.
Loeffler was among the wealthiest members of Congress until she lost her seat in January. In 2009, she and her husband spent more than $10million on a European-style mansion named Descante in the Buckhead neighborhood.
'The people of Buckhead have had enough,' said White. 'The criminals here feel emboldened.'
White estimated nearly 80 percent of his community will vote in favor of the separation from Atlanta in a referendum expected to reach the ballot next year.
Currently, a bill authorizing the referendum has been introduced in the Georgia House of Representatives, and the legislature will be able to vote on it in the 2022 session.
Atlanta officials have opposed the idea to separate the wealthy, largely white neighborhood from the rest of Atlanta, which is predominantly black, arguing it would siphon away much of the city's tax base and, in turn, its budget.
Buckhead's population is 73.5 percent white and 23.9 percent black. This compares to the wider Atlanta population which is 50.7 percent black and 38 percent white, according to census data.
Data analysis shows that Buckhead's population accounts for 20 percent of Atlanta's population, but more than 40 per cent of the city's assessed property value.
The tipping point for many Buckhead residents was the shooting attack on Worrell earlier this month.
Worrell was shot twice by a 'mentally ill' man who police say also opened fire on two other people and mowed down a neighbor with his car.
Atlanta police arrested and charged 22-year-old Gaelen Newsom with attempted murder, three counts of aggravated assault and two counts of possession of a firearm during a crime in connection with the weekend crime spree.
His wife Anne Worrell appeared on Fox News on Tuesday, telling host Tucker Carlson that she never imagined violent crime would 'really be knocking on my door'.
Asked if what happened to her husband felt like part of a bigger pattern, Anne agreed.
'It does. We've been saying for the past year 18 months that it just feels like it's creeping in closer and closer to the neighborhoods,' she said.
'I mean it's been in Buckhead but it just feels like it's getting closer and closer and I never imagined that it would really be knocking on my door like this but I think this is one reason why the citizens of Buckhead are very disturbed by this because we all feel violated.'
Andrew Wornell is pictured with a walker after having returned home from the hospital
Anne said she felt compelled to speak up on the issue of violence in Buckhead following Andrew's shooting.
'I do feel like since it's happened to us, we need to be the next voice and maybe this can be the catalyst for some change and some action in Atlanta and specifically Buckhead,' she said.
Gaelen Newsom, 22, was arrested and charged in Andrew's shooting
She said Andrew had been about halfway through his regular three-mile route when a car pulled up next to him.
'As the window came down he saw a gun and the guy just shot immediately and he was stunned and he shot him again and Andrew took off and ran up a little hill behind a tree and the guy took off and Andrew called 911'.
First responders found Andrew suffering from gunshot wounds to his leg and hip. He was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital.
Buckhead has seen several other high-profile instances of violence in recent months, including the fatal shooting of a 7-year-old girl in December.
Homicides were up 63 percent across Atlanta in the period running January 1 to May 23 compared to the same period last year, crime data show.
Last month, Mayor Bottoms ordered a new anti-violence advisory panel to convene and review the city's approach to curbing violent crime, as well as issue recommendations to city leaders.
Bottoms admitted in December she didn't know how to stop the alarming wave of violence and is 'open to suggestions.'