Unacceptable crime

A recent article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution implied that Mayor Kasim Reed and I have dismissed concerns about an uptick in crime in East Atlanta as “more perception than fact.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m even more concerned that any resident or business owner in the city would believe that I am not concerned by crimes committed against them.

Since I became police chief in January 2010, I have pledged never to dismiss any citizen’s concern of crime as a problem with perception. Being robbed at gunpoint is not a perception. It is reality. Having your car broken into, or your home burglarized, is not perception. It is reality.

I see the serious crimes that have plagued East Atlanta and other parts of our city in recent weeks as real problems in need of real solutions by the Atlanta Police Department and our partners in law enforcement and our communities. I can assure you, I take these crimes personally and find them unacceptable.

Context is hugely important. Facts – not statistics twisted to fit any agenda – bear out that major felony crimes are at lows not seen since the late 1960s. This particular fact was put to the test on Feb. 13 by the AJC PoltiFact team, which found the claim to be true.

When I started as a rookie officer in 1981, this city logged 182 homicides. Last year, we recorded 83 homicides — a reduction of more than 54 percent and the second-lowest number since 1961 (there were 80 homicides in 2009). At the high point, the city saw 263 homicides in 1973.

Citywide, we are seeing the same trend with burglaries and robberies. Since 2009, shortly before Mayor Reed took office and I took the reins at APD, there has been a 34 percent reduction in burglaries, a 1 percent reduction in robberies and an 18 percent reduction in overall crime across the city. Specifically, in East Atlanta’s Zone 6, there has been a 38 percent reduction in burglaries and a 17 percent reduction in crime overall in that time period.

We must work harder to reduce the number of robberies in Zone 6 and other parts of the city. I assure you, we are utilizing every resource at our disposal to fight this trend. We continue to deploy our Atlanta Proactive Enforcement and Interdiction Unit and our Motors and Mounted Patrol units. We recently started a new unit to patrol the Atlanta Beltline, the Path Force, which has already made more than 40 arrests in just a few weeks of existence.

We are also changing the way we approach crime, not only analyzing past trends but seeking to identify and predict future criminal movements.

This is not just a Zone 6 issue; this is an issue for the entire department and community. We must rely on citizens to be our eyes and ears on the street and call 911 when they see suspicious activity.

Together, we can win the fight against crime.

George N. Turner is chief of the Atlanta Police Department.