Residents, police discuss preventing crime in the 4th District

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Residents in Savannah's 4th District are looking for answers to help cut back on crime.

Alderwoman Ellen Sprague hosted a meeting at Harvest Church of the Nazarene to discuss crime on the heels of a couple of shootings over the weekend.

Police presented some ways they're addressing crime in the area, but they also heard questions and feedback from residents. But officers say they're "all ears" all the time, not just at formal meetings like this one.

"We want to have sit downs at your dining room table, we want to sit down at the coffee shop with you. We want to come by your business, come by your home and get to know who you are and get to know what your concerns are, and let us share some of our ideas with you. That's true community-oriented policing," said Maj. Larry Branson, SCMPD.

Monday night police shared some of the initiatives they're pushing to cut back on crime. Among them, a summer youth program that hopes to fill a void.

"There's money in the system for kids that are designated felons. There's money in the system for resources for kids that are on the edge. There's nothing for those kids who are being slowly dragged towards that edge or treading that way themselves," said Maj. Richard Zapal, SCMPD.

Maj. Branson said they're pushing to put more officers on the streets to build relationships with the community.

"Each precinct will tailor they're approach individually, but I can tell you on the most part it's going to be more park walk-and-talk, more activity out with the bicycles, more talking with the neighbors in the community, more talking to the folks in the businesses. There's going to be more connection," said Maj. Branson.

And he says people should see that effort in the coming months.

Police Chief Jack Lumpkin acknowledged audience concern about the need for more officers on the force. The good news: they've seen an increase from 30 applications a month to 180 per month.

And though they are still 59 officers short as of Monday night, the chief anticipates that will change by next year.

"The plan is to be at full strength moving in the next 12 months," Chief Lumpkin.

The good news, according to police, is that crime in the county has actually seen a downward trend over the years. But one of the biggest problems here remains property crimes.

Police say there are a few proven things that deter burglars: motion-sensor lights, alarm systems, security cameras, and locking your car all the time.

They also say a dog can often make a would-be burglar think twice.

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