Poor RP. Judging by the public's reaction, Richard Pennington's word is, at the end of the day, worthless.
No matter how many statistics he cites, no matter how many charts and graphs his department pulls together, no matter how many bunnies he pulls from his shiny cap, the embattled chief simply can't make the city's citizens believe they're safe.
The fear persists despite a 50 percent drop in homicides over a six-year period. Overall violent crime is down, too. So are property crimes. Ditto larcenies.
But wait. What's this? A bartender at a intown tavern shot dead after his shift? A popular boxer gunned down at a gas station while filling the tank of his car? A bunch of Georgia Tech students mugged at gunpoint? Flat screens being torn from the walls of homes and restaurants faster than you can dial 911? A councilman carjacked? The City Council president burglarized – twice?
Pressed about crimes like these, Pennington told reporters that the public is on edge not because crime is up, but because the details surrounding certain crimes are being circulated more widely than ever before. Basically, the chief said this: Atlanta doesn't have a crime problem. Atlanta has a perception of crime problem.
Um, that didn't go over well.
As "Allen," a commenter on CL news blog Fresh Loaf, posted earlier this year: "How is the perception wrong or misleading when you are surrounded by the crime, see the crime, have conversations with friends and neighbors about the crime and, yes, have friends killed by the crime? My perception tends to lead me to a simple conclusion."
Or, as "Frankly" put it, "It just infuriates me to no end that our dear mayor and police chief sit there quoting statistics and making excuses while the citizens of this city live in terror in their own homes. This is entirely UNACCEPTABLE."
More recently, the perception-of-crime disconnect has continued – even after Mayor Shirley Franklin announced last month that the Atlanta Police Department's crime stats would be made available on the city's website for all to peruse. Look! See? Crime stats. Down.
Nope. No one's buying it.