Chatham County Commission Supports Police Merger - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

12/20/02

Chatham County Commission Supports Police Merger

Sprague addresses the commission. Sprague addresses the commission.

There's been a lot of talk about crime on the islands lately. Today, the Chatham County Commission heard from residents who spoke out about their fears, sparking the commission to give overwhelming support to the much-talked-about idea of a police merger.

Chief Sprague expressed his concern over a lack of officers, and commissioners agreed support of merging the city and county police departments may help make the streets safer.

"People on the islands, where I happen to live, are very, very concerned," said resident Maryanne Himes. "There's been a lot of perception about a big increase in crime."

The crime has increased and the Chatham County Police Department needs help taking these criminals off the street. "We've arrested 380 people who committed crimes from the smallest crime to the largest crime," said Sprague, but he says they need more help to arrest more people

It's not only the islands experiencing an increase in crime; it's all the unincorporated areas, and after hearing Chief Sprague's plea for more officers, Commissioner McMasters made a motion to give support to the idea of a police merger between the city and county, and this time it passed with overwhelming support.

"The more I look at it, the more I like the merger," said Commissioner Frank Murray of District 4.

This resolution makes nothing final. It is just support for an idea which has been tossed around for more than a year and is now in serious negotiations. But Chief Sprague says this is a step in a positive direction to put more officers on the streets.

"550 officers from the combined departments will have countywide jurisdiction, just as county officers do now," he said.

The negotiations between the city and county will continue. Money for the merger may come from the upcoming special local option sales tax referendum in March. As for the crime on the islands, the commission and police department are urging residents to form more neighborhood watch programs, which will make everyone in the area more conscious of their surroundings.

Reported by: Kim Angelastro, kangelastro@wtoc.com

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