ATLANTA — The Atlanta Police Department is disbanding its narcotics unit.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne confirmed the change on Tuesday, with the department telling him that those officers will be getting reassigned to other units.
Atlanta police officials suggested the move is not abandoning the drug fight but about reducing violent crime.
“Absolutely, it’s a risky move,” a veteran APD narcotics officer told Winne, asking not to be identified. “I’m sure there was a lot of thought put into it. I don’t have all the numbers that the higher-ups in APD have, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
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In a statement, the department told Winne:
“We know that the illegal narcotics trade is often at the center of criminal activity fueled by guns and gangs. The Department is de-centralizing its Narcotics Unit in recognition that the violence that surrounds this trade should be the focus of the entire Department, not just one team. We have had tremendous success at targeting the sale of illegal narcotics by tracking violent criminals and getting illegally-possessed guns off the streets.
“Violent crime and gang activity must be the Department’s primary focus and where we will have a greater impact on the crimes affecting those most often victimized in our communities.”
“I hope in the long run that this move is successful. I wish Atlanta the best. I hope it was well calculated,” the officer told Winne.
APD said homicides in the city of Atlanta for 2019, minus the last three days, were up 9% over 2018, and 19% over 2017.
Aggravated assaults were up 12% over 2018 but 1% over 2017
While robberies were down 1% over 2018 and down 27% versus 2017, the department said overall crimes in 2019 decreased compared to both 2018 and 2017
As Winne interpreted the APD information, the homicide rate improved 3% for most of 2019 versus the same period in 2018. The numbers cited for 2018 and 2017 would also be minus the last three days of the year.
Winne spoke by phone with a contact with the International Brotherhood of Police Officers and he seemed to think the change was good.