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Monday, March 1, 2010

City of blight

click to enlarge ONE OUT OF TWO: An estimated 50 percent of homes in neighborhoods south of downtown are vacant -- a problem that's contributed to crime, frustration and hardships for residents.
  • ONE OUT OF TWO: An estimated 50 percent of homes in neighborhoods south of downtown are vacant -- a problem that's contributed to crime, frustration and hardships for residents.

It was late one spring afternoon in 2007, and Chandra Gallashaw couldn't figure out why her daughter wasn't home from school. She kept calling the 17-year-old's cell phone, but there was no answer.

The 11th-grader had won an ROTC award earlier that day and was still wearing her uniform as she walked home through Atlanta's Pittsburgh neighborhood about a mile south of downtown. She was four doors from her home when a man grabbed her, dragged her onto the porch of an abandoned house and, according to authorities, sexually assaulted her.

Afterward, the girl ran to a nearby ambulance and was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital.

Nearly three years later, the man accused of raping Gallashaw's daughter is awaiting trial, and the house where the crime took place is gone, leaving behind a vacant lot. But that's of little comfort to Gallashaw. Standing on the sidewalk outside her home, she looks up and down her street. "That house is empty, and that one, and that one," she says, pointing to at least a half-dozen boarded-up bungalows in all directions. "That's why no one could hear my baby cry."

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(Photo by Joeff Davis)

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