Editor’s note Jan 14, 2017: Maria Saporta shares some interesting statistics on crime in GA’s Fifth Congressional District. The fifth district is represented by civil rights leader and long time Congressman John Lewis.
By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Sept. 9, 2016
At the annual “Crime is Toast” breakfast on Aug. 30, Atlanta business community celebrated a 30 percent drop in crime within the city limits since 2009.
Part of that success can be attributed to the Atlanta Police Foundation, which raises private dollars to support crime-fighting initiatives not covered by city tax dollars. “Atlanta can not be a thriving business center if it’s not safe,” said Dave Abney, CEO of United Parcel Service, which was the “Chief” sponsor of the breakfast. Abney, who knows Atlanta is the signature city in the region, said the community has to be diligent because “the world is watching.”
Businesses have been supportive of Atlanta’s efforts to add security cameras, provide leadership training, creating housing opportunities inside the city for police officers and building a youth center on the Westside. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed highlighted a $1 million gift from GE on Aug. 26 that will go to public safety as well as the Atlanta Police Foundation’s $15.6 million capital campaign.
Atlanta Police Chief George Turner thanked the business community for its support, saying they may never know how their contributions can help change people’s lives. “I grew up in the City of Atlanta, and I spent the first nine years of my life in public housing,” Turner said, adding that his life was changed at a youth program. “I had the grace and good fortune to have a police officer who changed my life.”
After the breakfast, Turner added: “I’m not supposed to be here.” Looking at statistics, Turner said that many of the young black males who grew up in Perry Homes have ended up in jails or worse.
That’s why he applauded the idea of a youth center and reaffirmed that Atlanta can be a model for other cities facing confrontations between communities and police. “Back in 1948, we hired the first black police officer in this city,” Turner said. “We are the most diverse police department in the country. It is part of a tapestry that is Atlanta.”
Robin Loudermik, chairman of the Atlanta Police Foundation, said the three-year campaign launched late last year has already raised $10.73 million of the $15.6 million. He expects it to wrap up by the end of the year, and he expects it to bring in more than the goal. The breakfast alone raised nearly $180,000.
During the breakfast, several leaders mentioned the goal of making Atlanta “the safest big city in America.” But Dave Wilkinson, president and CEO of the Atlanta Police Foundation, acknowledged there is no metric currently that ranks comparable cities.