by: Scott MacFarlane Updated:
WASHINGTON - A U.S. Justice Department internal review says Atlanta has successfully used Washington's money to crack down on car thieves. But the money could soon evaporate.
Atlanta won an $11 million federal grant in 2009 to hire police officers and buy equipment. Much of the money was to be spent before the end of 2013.
An internal Justice Department audit obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by MacFarlane said the city used the money to hire about 50 officers and also to beef up its auto theft unit.
The review by the U.S. Justice Department said that new surveillance equipment and new computers helped the Atlanta Police Department "significantly improve stolen vehicle recoveries and solve other related crimes."
A review of Atlanta crime data shows a 4 percent drop in car thefts between 2011 and 2012, numbering about 5,000 thefts each year.
MacFarlane has learned Washington is poised to cut its grant programs for police. That money included $302 million budgeted nationwide in police grants in 2012, with another $91 million this year.
"When you cut law enforcement safety money, people sometimes die. And we have to realize that very hard truth. When we're cutting dollars that are going to make it safer for our officers, people are going to get hurt. Or they're going to get killed," said Craig Floyd, with the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos told MacFarlane the department cringes at the thought of a loss of federal funding. Campos said APD is “keenly aware” Washington is considering chopping programs he said have been “absolutely beneficial.”