CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - The debate season in Savannah heated up once again with the candidates for Alderman from districts one, two and three meeting at the Civil Rights Museum to take on the tough questions about their plans for the city if elected.
WTOC asked each of them about their best idea for one of the hottest topics on the minds of voters: violent crime.
Violent crime has jumped more than 20 percent in Savannah year to year, under the watch of the incumbents at this debate. So, we first hear from them about the best ways to arrest that trend.
"We owe it to our citizens to have a fully staffed police department," insisted District 1 incumbent, Van Johnson. "Secondly, we have to hold parents accountable for the actions of their young people particularly when they have failed to properly manage their children."
Mary Osborne currently represents District 2. "I really believe Operation Cease Fire is going to help us a great deal. I saw it work in other cities and I'm looking forward to action here in Savannah."
"We have looked to take home cars, signing bonuses, housing allowances, finders fees, anything that we can get to get qualified men and women of character to join our department," said District 3 incumbent, John Hall.
For challengers, like Bernetta Lanier in District 1, crime fighting starts at the source. "Of course we need to deal with the administrative side of the crime problem, but the real change will come from when we change what's happening in the neighborhood as far as the poverty and the disparity."
District 2 challenger, Bill Durrence sees a different picture when it comes to crime prevention. It starts with police but must include investments elsewhere. "Supporting the police chief. Giving him the support he needs filling out the vacancies so that we can get to community policing is part of it. The other part is long-term economic development in the parts of town that have suffered such severe poverty."
Orthopedic Tech, Detric Leggett, is also after the District 2 seat. He has yet a different prescription for crime here, and it starts with a still unanswered question.
"My plan is to bring together all of the neighborhood association presidents, all of the non-profits, all of the activists in the community and find out what's stemming all of this crime. So, that's the question that hasn't been answered for a long time. What starts the crime here and why can't we put safeguards in to make sure the crime isn't happening anymore," said Leggett.
Andree Patterson, a life coach by trade, finds the solution to violent crime in terms of supply and demand. She too, wants a shot at the District 2 seat. "Honestly, what I'd like to see is for the police to target the buyers for the drugs and so on. Because I think that's where the problem is. So, if there's no demand there won't be any need for supply."
Businesswoman, Kim Dulek is challenging the District 3 incumbent. She is certain the business of policing is what's been missing in Savannah. "Full support for what they are working on right now with Operation Ceasefire in the city of Savannah should be our key. And if I was elected that would be one thing I would be in full support of. As well as Chief Lumpkin as supporting him is his endeavors
too. Increase the police force to give him all the tools that he needs to do his job and help fight crime in Savannah."
It's becoming clear as we move closer to the Nov. 3rd election, these incumbents and their challengers do represent very different ideas when it comes to solving Savannah's escalating violent crime rates in Savannah.
As voters, if you're not hearing these folks out, you may be voting for an approach to the problems we're facing that you don't even agree with. WTOC will do everything we can to help you vote with your eyes wide open.