Atlanta’s controversial use of a federal crime reduction program isn’t paying off as well as first thought. That could put more pressure on the people who run the city’s version of the federal “Weed & Seed” grant.
Atlanta’s administration of the federal program aimed at weeding out the bad and seeding neighborhood redevelopment was criticized in a federal audit uncovered last week by WSB Washington Correspondent Jamie Dupree. From 2007 until 2010, the federal government sent Atlanta $1.1 million in grants targeted in four neighborhoods: Pittsburgh, Mechanicsville, English Avenue and Vine City.
The Justice Department audit found hundreds of thousands of dollars had been misspent. Questionable items included an intercom system for the mayor’s office, a late payment on a credit card bill and payment to a caterer.
The city disputed some of those findings last week and pointed to huge reductions in crime as proof the program worked during the time in question, between 2007 and 2010. But now, the city admits its statistics weren’t as good as initially thought, blaming the fact that the initial report had not been vetted by the Police Department.
For instance, where city officials claimed between 2007 and 2010, crime in the Pittsburgh neighborhood had dropped 42 percent, it was actually down 37-percent. In English Avenue, Weed & Seed was credited with a 51-percent reduction in crime. It was actually 45-percent. In Vine City, the program was credited with helping police reduce crime 50-percent when the real number was 44-percent. And in Mechanicsville, where the program was credited for a 35-percent drop in lawlessness, crime was actually up 35-percent.
Still, a statement by the mayor’s office noted that together, crime in the neighborhoods served by Weed & Seed was down 21-percent in 2011 compared to five years earlier.