By Alan Judd
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Monday, Nov. 23, 2009
The city looms large from the Atlanta Police Department’s Zone 1, which comprises 19 square miles west of downtown and north of I-20. Sometimes you turn a corner and, suddenly, catch a dramatic view of the gleaming skyline. It’s a breathtaking sight, especially at night when the city lights contrast so starkly to the darkness of a neighborhood known as the Bluff.
At any time, only a dozen or so uniformed officers may patrol Zone 1, despite its history as one of the most crime-ridden parts of the city. It was here that many victims of Atlanta’s most infamous crime wave — the Missing and Murdered Children cases of 1979 to 1981 — lived and died. The notoriety persists. When he joined the police department six years ago, Officer Dedric Alexander says, “Zone 1 was off the leash — off the leash.”
The challenges of maintaining law, or at least order, play out daily in Zone 1. Too few officers are expected to respond to too many crimes and other incidents, and often there simply are no officers available to handle serious calls.