Crime prevention meeting held to make streets safer - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Crime prevention meeting held to make streets safer

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Chatham County is looking to a new approach to make Savannah streets safer. They're looking to target neighborhoods and tackle violence one person at a time. 

For the past two years police and prosecutors have been saying that tiny neighborhood gangs have been the driving force behind crime in Savannah neighborhoods.

The city of Savannah is turning to New York for an answer, to the director of crime prevention at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He said cities like Savannah aren't riddled with crime and violence, instead, a very small percentage of the population is creating this huge problem for our city. 

"They're caught up mostly in this street dynamic of respect and disrespect," David Kennedy with John Jay College said.

Kennedy has spent the week talking to Savannah's city leaders, working to convince them that locking people up isn't the answer. 

"Where do you learn that more than anywhere else? You learn it in prison," he said. 

Kennedy has studied violence in cities like New Orleans and Chicago. He said what he finds is always the same, a tiny group of people, less than half of one percent involved in 75 percent of homicides and non-violent shootings.

"It's distressing. It's distressing as a man. It's distressing as an African American. It's distressing as a human being," U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver said. 

In New Orleans and Chicago, Kennedy has implemented an intervention plan that partners police, prosecutors, church leaders and social workers.

They force probationers and parolees to come to dinner, sit down with them for some one-on-one mentoring. The mentors offer to help them clean up their lives, get a job and end the cycle of violence and crime.

Mary Osborne and City Manager Stephanie cutter recently traveled to Tennessee to study one of Kennedy's pilot programs.

"I think we're going to be headed to that model very, very soon," Osborne said. 

"It is going to take the community, the total community to bring this to make it happen and to have it be a success," Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson said. 

Now, police are studying Kennedy's ideas, but they aren't making any promises to implement them yet.

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