AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Georgia National Guard being deployed to Atlanta's war on blight

Walls should start tumbling down this afternoon as law enforcement authorities launch the next phase of their efforts to disrupt the drug market in the English Avenue neighborhood.

The campaign is drawing heavyweights: U.S. Attorney John Horn, Atlanta Police Chief George Turner, Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard and Brig. Gen. Joe Jarrad, adjutant general of the Georgia Department of Defense. At 1:30 today, they will be joined by other government officials and residents from the English Avenue area to announce the latest initiative.

Then the Georgia National Guard Counterdrug Task Force will immediately begin demolishing blighted properties. A media advisory issued late Tuesday said that the Georgia National Guard Counterdrug Task Force initiative allows for demolition of properties with a drug connection, such as properties identified as havens for the drug market.

Look for updates later today.

Authorities began drawing a bead on English Avenue blight over the past year, as investigative reporter Willoughby Mariano of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution exposed the role of outside investors in fueling the area's slide into squalor. Despite efforts by residents to try to save the community, known as The Bluff, derelict properties drew crime and more blight, she wrote. Efforts by area churches and the city also stumbled, she found. City money went to placating rival political factions, then the city stood back as nonprofits used the funds on pet projects.

Also fueling authorities' interest: The neighborhood is in the shadows of the Atlanta Falcons' new stadium.

This summer, federal authorities declared the area off limits to drug dealers, summoning 14 people suspected of selling heroin in the neighborhood and giving them one last chance to stop.

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About the Author

Lois Norder is Senior Editor for Investigations in the newsroom at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.