Decade in Review - THEN AND NOW: Crime and injustice

THEN: With lackluster Police Chief Beverly Harvard lording over a department tarnished by the revelation that its top brass had been under-reporting crime stats — and with federal investigators sniffing out corruption in the office of Harvard’s boss, Mayor Bill Campbell — the Atlanta Police Department wasn’t exactly brimming with optimism back in 2000. What’s more, crime had risen that year (albeit by a tiny fraction) for the first time in nearly a decade. And the police force of that era was badly understaffed, with one in every four law-enforcement posts remaining unfilled.

NOW: Believe it or not, crime is way down over the past decade. From 2000 to 2008 — a period during which Atlanta’s population grew 26 percent — violent crime took a 36 percent nosedive. Property crimes dipped 12 percent. And 2009 is looking to have an even lower crime rate than 2008. Of course, the department isn’t unblemished. It has yet to recover from a series of high-profile crimes, most notably a 2006 drug sting gone horribly awry (and a police chief, Richard Pennington, who appeared to remain aloof throughout the ordeal). Ninety-two-year-old Kathryn Johnston was shot dead in her Vine City home by members of Atlanta’s narcotics squad serving an illegally obtained search warrant, and the botched raid landed three cops behind bars. Overall, the city just doesn’t feel safer. Perhaps that’s because, when it comes to the sheer size of the force, we still have a ways to go. Back in 2000, there was one cop for every 300 citizens. Now there’s one for every 320.

PROGNOSIS: Things appear to be looking up … at least according to the stats.

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