Business owners say Savannah needs more police officers - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Business owners say city needs more police officers

Downtown Business Association President Ruel Joyner Downtown Business Association President Ruel Joyner

Savannah-Chatham Metro Police said their 4th of July planning and presence helped catch four people after a shooting just after midnight downtown. 

But downtown businesses said they want more police officers. Why? 

It all goes back to safety and perception. The Downtown Business Association said the overnight shooting is just another example of what they call a crime problem. Last fall, Police Chief Willie Lovett's request for a budget increase to hire as many as 30 more police officers was denied. Downtown businesses said the city needs to rethink that decision. 

"What he has asked for is prudent. It shows it by the numbers from the Dept. of Justice and our neighboring cities we need to support him and give him what he needs," said Ruel Joyner, president of the Savannah Downtown Business Association. 

Joyner referred to DOJ data that shows that compared to Atlanta, Charleston and most of nearby cities, that Savannah's 600 police officers breaks down to a ratio of three police officers per 1,000 citizens. But Atlanta and Charleston both have an officer-citizen ratio of 4-1000. Joyner said the ratio of 3 officers per 1,000 citizens is not enough - when you add in 12 million tourists a year. 

"Without that police presence - not only do you not have the confidence with officers walking the beat down here. It also causes a problem when there is an incident. Officers from other precincts have to come down here, leaving those neighborhoods unprotected. We need extra police presence to keep Savannah secure as a whole," he said.  

The Downtown Business Association is hoping to meet once more with the City Council, mayor and city manager to talk about funding more police officer positions.

SCMPD police spokesman Julian Miller said that plans for the 4th of July for safety and traffic worked and that outside the shooting, they had minor issues.

He said metro had an extensive plan for the downtown festivities and officers in position to saturate the area within seconds and take three people in for questioning immediately. The plan was so extensive that the fourth person was apprehended 10 blocks away. 

The Downtown Business Association said it wants that kind of presence at all times.

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