Atlanta city officials open 2nd center for at-risk youth

Credit: Christina Matacotta

Credit: Christina Matacotta

As Atlanta officials continue efforts to combat crime, the city on Thursday opened a second facility for at-risk youth.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and interim Police Chief Rodney Bryant attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 17,000-square-foot At-Promise Center along Metropolitan Parkway in the Pittsburgh community. Managed by the Atlanta Police Foundation, the facility is designed to give children and teenagers a constructive place to go while cultivating positive relationships with law enforcement in the southwest Atlanta neighborhood.

It’s the second such center built in Atlanta. The first opened in the English Avenue community in 2017 and a third is set to open in the next six months along Campbellton Road. The $4.5 million facility was designed and built at cost thanks to donations and partnerships with local companies, according to Karen Rogers, director of community programs for the police foundation.

Geared toward Atlanta’s youth who have had run-ins with the law, the center links families with counseling services, recreational activities and tutors who can help students keep up with their school work, Rogers said.

“There was a very high population of kids who didn’t have virtual school options,” she said. “Here, they can get Internet access, they have a computer and they have access to tutors and retired school teachers.”

In addition, the centers are effective at reducing recidivism rates among teens who regularly attend, said Dave Wilkinson, the police foundation’s president and CEO.

“Unfortunately, the recidivism rate in this country is between 70 and 90%,” Wilkinson said. “The At-Promise Center on the Westside has treated upwards of 1,500 kids now, and we’ve seen a recidivism rate of less than 5%.”

Bottoms said the initiative is exactly what reimagining public safety is all about.

“It’s not just about how our officers respond to incidents,” the mayor said. “It’s also about addressing those systemic issues that create a culture and a continuation of crime in our community.”

Credit: Christina Matacotta

Credit: Christina Matacotta

While Atlanta has grown over the years, Bottoms said it’s still the “city too busy to hate, but not too busy to love and not too big to care.”

Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd, who represents the area, said she was grateful the city could turn a once-blighted warehouse into a state-of-the-art facility aimed at improving children’s lives.

“This is truly an example of what should be happening in all of our cities,” Sheperd said, adding she’s hopeful the regular interactions with police will provide a more positive perception of law enforcement within the community.

Bryant said he was assigned to the neighborhood when he got his first patrol beat.

He said the At-Promise Center will improve the neighborhood, and hopes other major cities will launch similar initiatives for at-risk youth.

“One thing that I do know is that there is no way police can get us out of where we are alone,” he said. “It takes the support of a community really coming together and making that change.”

Credit: Christina Matacotta

Credit: Christina Matacotta