By David Pendered
Atlanta is on pace to have 2,000 sworn police officers this year.
Atlanta now has 1,960 officers, counting 23 who were added after a police academy graduation Tuesday, according to police Chief George Turner. The recruits needed to reach the target are in the police academy or waiting to attend, Turner said. The money to pay the officers is in the budget proposal for the fiscal year that starts July 1, which Mayor Kasim Reed released Wednesday.
While the number of officers is important, the crime rate is the number that matters to those in the city. The rate of serious crimes is 2 percent higher than at this time last year, but is 18 percent lower than in 2009, the last year reported on the police department’s website.
Various mayors have held out the promise of 2,000 officers since Bill Campbell said it in 1997. The number has remained elusive, for any number of reasons. Mayor Kasim Reed made the promise and put a date on it: June 30, 2013.
Reed reiterated that promise in the letter he wrote to transmit his FY 2014 budget proposal to the Atlanta City Council. The second paragraph (the first is a greeting) reads:
- “I am pleased that this spending plan continues my administration’s commitment to investing in public safety and restoring fiscal stability to the city. The FY2014 proposed spending plan reflects that public safety is my number one priority by maintaining a police force of 2,000 officers and ensuring full fire engine staffing within the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department. The plan also continues my commitment to restoring fiscal stability to the city by continuing to grow the general fund reserves in FY2014. This important milestone will allow the city of Atlanta to move forward with funding the city’s infrastructure needs.”
The council will take Reed’s budget proposal as a starting point in budget deliberations this month. By ordinance, the council must adopt a budget in June. The fiscal year begins July 1.
Turner said the class graduated Tuesday night added 23 officers to the force, bringing it to 1,960 officers. An additional 120 recruits are either in the academy or waiting to attend the academy, Turner said. The academy lasts more than 20 weeks.
Councilperson Michael Julian Bond, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said of having 2,000 officers in the department: “That will be a historic achievement, and highest compliments to the mayor for making that goal a reality. That was a few administrations ago [that the goal was stated].”
“Staffing is up to the largest police department we have ever had, and we look forward to expanding the police department,” Turner said at another point in the meeting.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Police Department’s web page provides crime statistics that are current, through April 27 as of today. They provide a snapshot of crime for the years going back to 2009.
Maps of the city posted on the page provide a close-up view of the crime picture – including the date, crime and location.
Atlanta’s biggest increases in recorded crimes are in robberies (up 20 percent) and auto theft (up 15 percent), when comparing year-to-date April 27 with the same period of 2012. The numbers there are: Robberies, 685 compared to 571; Auto theft, 1,572 compared to 1,371.
A catch-all of some other stats shows some interesting aspects of modern day life in Atlanta as the city continues its efforts to get more cops on the street:
- Rape is down 15 percent, from 34 incidents to 29;
- Narcotic arrests are down 25 percent, from 1,590 to 1,193;
- Truancy violations are down 22 percent, from 953 to 745.