The long-awaited Atlanta Police Department mini-precinct on Boulevard opened Monday at the Atlanta Medical Center, serving as a key cornerstone of a multi-layered initiative designed to clean up crime on the Boulevard corridor in Old Fourth Ward.
Part of the Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall's "Year of Boulevard" initiative, the effort is just one part of wide ranging plans to bring positive change Boulevard which has been tagged as a problem thoroughfare drawing crime, drug dealers and serving as the escape conduit for crimes committed in adjoining neighborhoods.
The precinct, which is staffed with a dozen officers, has as its primary mission patrolling Boulevard and surrounding Old Fourth Ward.
The officers, who already began patrols before the opening of the mini-precinct, have made a dent already, said Maj. Keith Meadows, APD's Zone 6 commander.
"Historically that's been a rather violent corridor," Meadows told East Atlanta Patch in an interview last week.
But the targeted policing has led to a significant increase in arrests, particularly drug arrests in Old Fourth Ward, so far this year.
That's led to an overall spike in arrests — an increase of 61 percent — throughout all of Zone 6, which includes East Atlanta, East Lake, Inman Park and Reynoldstown, among other neighborhoods.
Year-to-date, Zone 6 has made roughly 1,700 arrests, compared to 1,100 for the same comparable period last year, he said.
But crime reduction is just one piece of the initiative, Hall said.
"Atlanta's been really been good at building buildings. We're good at everything related to the built environment," Hall said. "But we haven't spent a lot of our capital energy on building people — building what makes a society great and a city phenomenal."
That's why crucial parts of the “Year of Boulevard” plan is focused on the more than 700 children — 18 years old and younger — who live on the Boulevard corridor, he said.
More than 50 percent of those kids live below the poverty line.
So this part of the overall plan, dubbed the "Yo Boulevard! Summer of Possibility," aims to give those kids alternatives to hanging out in the streets and opportunities for personal development and growth, said Govantez Lowndes, who is part of TEDxAtlanta, a non-profit that brings people from the technology, entertainment and design backgrounds (hence the name, TED) to tackle community issues.
TEDxAtlanta has pledged to raise $100,000 to send 300 children from the Boulevard corridor to an 8-week summer camp. Lowndes is on TEDxAtlanta's steering committee and member of the fundraising committee collecting the funds for the camps and related kids' activities.
In keeping with the "Summer of Possibilities" theme, the camp aims to give the children not just the traditional outdoors experience, but opportunities to help them develop personal skills and goals, Lowndes told Patch. The camp, open to those between 6 and 18 years of age, will include entrepreneurship programs and internships for the older kids in Old Fourth Ward and the Perimeter area.
"We are part of the community. We realize we're simply stronger together from the sharing of ideas and the activation of one voice," Lowndes said. "This is our first step to put our money where our mouth is to essentially take our collective voice and to put it behind something that we know will help everyone in the city of Atlanta and not just the Boulevard corridor."