By 2002 the decline in the crime rate in the city had been underway for about 13 years. Despite this decline, the city still ranked at the top of the UCR reports, meaning that although crime had come down, it had not decreased at a rate faster than the rest of the nation. Upon entering office, Franklin recognized that improving the city’s relative performance in crime needed to be a top priority.
In fact, crime rates in cities such as New York and Los Angeles had declined at rates significantly faster than the rate in the City of Atlanta. The ambition at the time was to drop out of the top ten nationally, which meant not only continuing the decline in crime that was underway, but accelerating at a rate that exceeded the decline that other cities were achieving. She took a two-pronged approach to the issue:
- Reform of the Atlanta Police Department with a focus on increasing the size of the force, professionalizing its management and concentrating resources on the prevention of Part One crimes
- aggressive promotion and investment in economic development initiatives that could contribute to the turn-around of neglected neighborhoods and improve the public safety climate in high crime areas of the city
As a consequence of all these factors – improvements in the underlying causes of crime, aggressive economic development efforts and improved management of the APD – crime has continued its decline. The city has dropped out of the top 10 in the FBI’s rankings.
In 2009 Atlanta’s Part One crimes dropped an additional 13 percent and crime nationally is projected to have decreased around 4 percent. With these statistics the city’s ranking is likely to improve considerably in the FBI’s 2009 UCR report.
When Franklin left office, the city had not seen crime levels this low since the early 1960s (the 80 homicides recorded in 2009 is the lowest number since 1962). The recession has not led to an increase in crime (quite the reverse), and economic recovery will likely provide a needed boost to the economic development initiatives already underway.
-excerpts from Atlanta Case Study Project: Decreasing Crime – 2010
by Harvey K. Newman, Professor and Chair, and Tim N. ToddDepartment of Public Management and Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies