Crime persists despite effort to clean up Boulevard corridor

7:40 PM, Aug 27, 2012   |    comments
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An apartment building near Boulevard and Highland in Atlanta's Old 4th Ward.

ATLANTA, Ga. -- A new coffee shop opened in the Old Fourth Ward eleven days ago -- buoyed by a steady drumbeat of economic development in this in-town neighborhood, undaunted by the community's ongoing struggles to curb crime.

"The excitement for what's to come in this neighborhood completely outweighs any of the struggles" with crime, said Aaron Shively, a manager with the company that owns the Dancing Goats Coffee Bar.

Yet the area's struggle with crime was highly visible last week, when witnesses gave police detailed descriptions of a man who they say tried to abduct two children at a city park blocks away from the new coffee shop.

The kidnapping attempt took place just west of Boulevard, the troubled four-lane corridor that connects a half-dozen thriving in-town communities. Earlier this year, the city began an effort to clean up Boulevard, which is pocked with blighted property and young idle men who are frequent police targets. City councilman Kwanza Hall calls the project "the year of Boulevard." He says it's making progress, despite some persistent crime.

"We're talking about changing something that's been in place for thirty years. It's not going to change in six months," Hall said. Hall says property owners on Boulevard are beginning to make commitments to upgrade. And Hall is introducing an ordinance to curb loitering citywide. If it passes the city council, Hall says the ordinance "can also be applied to parts of Boulevard. I mean, there are guys hanging out there that shouldn't be there."

Hall says a new loitering ordinance would only be one ingredient in a long-term effort to clean up Boulevard-- an effort, he admits, whose timeline will have to be extended.

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