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A week into Year of Boulevard II, a deadly shooting

Last night's incident undescores why transforming the area will mean two steps forward, one back.

After a year of stepped-up public safety, and just days after lowered crime rates were touted at the Year of Boulevard 2013 kickoff, last night's deadly shooting underscores the complexity of the area’s problems.

One man was killed and another seriously injured after a squabble over a girlfriend escalated into gunfire in the parking lot of the Family Dollar shopping center at the corner of Boulevard and North Avenue at around ten last night, according to police.

Police just happened to be in the area when the shooting started, according to APD spokesman Greg Lyon. Zone 6 officers were responding to a 911 call about illegal gambling in an apartment building a block further north up Boulevard when they heard shots from the direction of the shopping center. A man who’d been shot in the torso ran toward them. He was taken to Grady for treatment while another man was taken from the shopping center to Atlanta Medical, where he was pronounced dead. As of Tuesday afternoon, no arrests had been made, according to APD.

Of course, this incident will only underscore the area’s notorious reputation. Patch reported a “barrage of bullets,” the AJC noted a “barrage of gunfire” (aside: is “barrage” the new “hail”?) and WSB carried video of police tape, shattered windows, and bullet casings.

Last Thursday evening, during the kickoff for Year of Boulevard 2013, I spoke with APD’s Zone 6 commander Keith Meadows and an officer stationed at the Boulevard precinct. Both reported that overall crime—and violent crime in particular—had gone down in the area over last year.

I also talked with residents of Bedford Pines who said they don’t let their kids go outside for fear of gunfire. While several did note they feel safer and have noticed a stronger APD presence over the past year, concern about crime was the number one issue cited by all.

Kwanza Hall, who’s in Los Angeles this week attending a meeting organized by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which awarded the Year of Boulevard effort a fellowship, said he’d heard about the shooting and is staying in touch with APD.

“I often see a lot of people hanging around that corner,” he said this afternoon. “There are several commercial property owners—not Wingate—in the area, and we need to get them in the room.” Over the past year, Hall’s office and APD have taken area gas stations to task about allowing loitering on their properties. “The gas station operators have stepped up. That helps us be preventative,” says Hall. The next step will be getting other businesses to do the same. “Commercial property owners have just as much responsibility as the rest of the community.”

Anyone who drives down Boulevard knows people congregate at the North Avenue intersection all the time. Discouraging loitering here—as has been done at the parks at Angier and Parkway over the past year with a more visible APD presence and stepped up monitoring by Wingate—is another needed step. But like every aspect of YOB, this latest incident is another reminder of why transforming the area will continue to be a process of two steps forward and one back.